Linux might have become a sizable force in the server market, but on the desktop, the open-source solution has been less than successful. In fact, according to a recent survey from market-research firm Web Side Story, Linux accounts for just 0.24 percent--that's point twenty-four percent or less than one-quarter of one percent--of all desktop OS use. According to the company, Windows and Macintosh users combined make up about 98 percent of the desktop OS market. The vast majority of that group, of course, uses Windows.
"For almost 3 years, Linux usage share has fluctuated between 0.2 and 0.3 percent, with no substantial growth," Web Side Story noted in a release this week. This news is particularly problematic for fans of the open-source solution, because Linux has made strong usability gains in recent years, with advances to GNOME and the K Desktop Environment (KDE). But rather than embrace these free solutions, most users opt for proprietary OSs such as Windows and the Mac OS because the products work out of the box, and massive software libraries support them. Linux just can't seem to shake the perception that the OS is difficult to set up and use.
Strong acceptance in the enterprise bolstered Windows, in particular; the Mac continues to hold its own in schools and emerging digital-media markets. Adults tend to run systems at home that are compatible with those they use at work, and they want to train their children on the same systems to ensure their viability in the future workplace. Some higher-education and research environments have embraced Linux, meanwhile, but the OS hasn't seen any real desktop penetration outside of these niche markets.
The Web Side Story statistics are also relevant because they track actual users, not dollar sales. Linux proponents have often argued that Windows and Macintosh market stats are skewed because Linux is free and doesn't earn as much money for companies as their proprietary opponents. Free or not, however, Linux is losing--and losing badly--on the desktop. And no amount of rationalization can alter that simple fact.