Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

The Problem With Estimating Linux Desktop Market Share

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the something-about-lying-and-statistics dept.

Linux Business 409

jammag writes "It's long been one of those exceptionally hard-to-quantify numbers: exactly what percentage of the desktop PC market is held by Linux? Doubters suggest it hovers around a negligible one percent, while partisans suggest it's in excess of 10 percent. Bruce Byfield explores the various sources of estimates, dismissers' and fan boys' alike, and guesstimates it might realistically be 5-6%. Still, he admits, 'the objectivity of numbers is often just a myth.'"

cancel ×

409 comments

Guesstimates? (3, Insightful)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 5 years ago | (#27829781)

Estimates are already a form of guessing. The word 'guesstimate' make me want to puke blood.

Re:Guesstimates? (5, Insightful)

Akido37 (1473009) | more than 5 years ago | (#27829827)

Estimates are already a form of guessing. The word 'guesstimate' make me want to puke blood.

When I was in school, I was taught that an estimate was the same as rounding (As opposed to an "educated guess").

Now, every time I hear the word estimate, I assume that the number started from some actual data, rather than from someone's rectum.

Re:Guesstimates? (5, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830201)

Exactly. If I see someone I can estimate their height and weight. If all I know is your name, all I can do is guess based on sex, nationality, averages, etc.

Re:Guesstimates? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27830233)

Yeah, that sucks that you were taught incorrectly.
What's your point?

Re:Guesstimates? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830331)

That has never been the definition of estimate. If you had actual data there's absolutely no reason why one would want to estimate. Rounding has it's own term, rounding or sometimes precision.

Estimates are often times just Fermi problems with a tad bit more information coming in.

Re:Guesstimates? (4, Funny)

Poltras (680608) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830437)

Now, every time I hear the word estimate, I assume that the number started from some actual data, rather than from someone's rectum.

Except for estimates of colonoscopy, I guess.

Re:Guesstimates? (5, Insightful)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 5 years ago | (#27829835)

The main problem with linux desktop usage is that all the games are made for Windows (some of them also work on Macs). I for one cant change to use linux as desktop, even if I want to and use it as server, because I like to play the games aswell (no, the freeware games on linux dont count for obvious reasons).

Problem is that game developers neither want to develop games for linux because it doesnt have enough users, and hence it goes round and round.

So the question is, how could we get the gaming market to linux aswell?

Re:Guesstimates? (0)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830189)

Write linux games yourself.

I dual boot to play windows games, but my main desktop is linux, where i work on a game port for linux.

Re:Guesstimates? (4, Insightful)

Exitar (809068) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830543)

Except that gamers are usually more interested in *playing* games that in writing and/or porting them.

Re:Guesstimates? (5, Informative)

HermMunster (972336) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830245)

There are many Linux games. The Unreal tournament series for one, the quake series, Enemy Territory, etc. There are some solid full featured free games but I would have to say that frozen bubble isn't a game for obvious reasons as it is just an incomplete toy demo of some 3d graphics.

One has to ask why there are no games? Would you as a developer not want to target potentially 30-50 million world-wide users?

There are a couple of reasons for this.

1) Commercial developers don't understand the license--GPL and others.

2) Microsoft created a series of "lock in" technologies. Sort of like what we went through with the OOXML/DOC thing. For nearly a decade the government and large entities public and private required that you submit your electronic files in .doc (or some other office format). This meant that say, when the court system wanted you to submit pleadings you had to submit them in .doc and that meant that you the attorney and everyone in your office had to use a proprietary tool.

See the lock in? Well, Directx is the same way. Developers create based on Directx even though there's a near feature complete comparative technology in OpenGL. If developers developed for OpenGL then they'd have a basis for cross-platform gaming development. Some do, such as the guys that do the Unreal Tournament series. They know the value of it. Some day we may see that users are using Linux for their day in and day out tasks and switching to windows for gaming. You'll dual boot into windows like you would start up your console just so you can play the game, then you'll go back to Linux to do everything else.

This puts us in a position of the chicken or the egg. Wait for a market to grow to justify mutliple APIs for gaming development from the standpoint of the gaming industry leaders or develop and hope you can build a gaming following.

Yes, many of my friends have said that they play games and that's the number one reason. They won't commit to Linux unless they can game on it and it looks as good as it does under Directx.

I personally loose site of the quality of the graphics and tend to focus on game play after the initial WOW when I first begin a game. It doesn't mean I loose track completely but my focus is on playing and not so much on the beauty of the surroundings.

I have played some with wine and gaming and though it can work often times it has 2 failings. The first is that the games just don't look the same as they do under windows and aren't good performers. The second is that they can be problematic to get up and running. This isn't to say that all are this way. A popular game called Guild Wars is totally windows, but runs flawlessly under Wine.

I've taken and connected one of my Linux computers to a 47" TV going from DVI to HDMI. The resolution is 1920x1080 and looks utterly awesome as a desktop. I installed wine and then Guild Wars. After a few settings adjustments it looks just as good under Linux as under Windows and it is an incredibly beautiful on that 47" TV.

This is a tough battle to win. Only through gaining market share with Linux can we get gaming going. That's tough when dealing with a criminally convicted predatory monopolist such as Microsoft.

Re:Guesstimates? (4, Informative)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830703)

you dont need to understand free licences - there's nothing to stop you releasing proprietary software that runs on linux.

Re:Guesstimates? (0, Flamebait)

Tenebrousedge (1226584) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830255)

It's not that people don't want to develop for linux. It's that the GPL is viral. If you use a GPL library for part of your game engine, you have to GPL the whole enchilada. Game content can be closed-source, but with the engine you have to go one way or the other: all open, or all closed.

With the former, you can't use something like the Havok physics engine. With the latter, you miss out on one of the biggest reasons to make a game for an open source platform.

Your argument is more valid for cross-platform games, and the answer is probably Apple. If Apple starts to take over the desktop segment (they are the only ones with a real shot at it), then gaming may become more cross-platform, at which point linux will probably benefit as well.

Re:Guesstimates? (4, Informative)

Skreems (598317) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830497)

It's not that people don't want to develop for linux. It's that the GPL is viral. If you use a GPL library for part of your game engine, you have to GPL the whole enchilada. Game content can be closed-source, but with the engine you have to go one way or the other: all open, or all closed.

Come on now... this was solved decades ago with the LGPL license. Any changes you make to LGPL libraries are included in the viral behavior, but any proprietary binary that links against the LGPL libraries can be whatever license you want. It takes a little effort to understand the solution, maybe, but the solution is there.

Re:Guesstimates? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27830499)

Wow you make a shitty business person. If an engine you want to use is GPL and you don't want to GPL your code either do one of two things:

1) Find another physics engine
2) Contact the author and make an offer to use it under a commercial license.

C'mon these are gaming companies that spend money. What's a few thousand dollars that they would probably be spending in the windows world anyway. Many popular libraries worth using are written under the LGPL which just keeps that library open and lets you link to it GPL-free. I don't know why it is so hard to negotiate or even understand an open source license when in the proprietary world gaming companies have lawyers that mull through license agreements and broker copyright deals all the time.

For the record I am kind of sick and tired of stupid baseless GPL bashing. Someone wrote some software and they released it under a certain license. Think of the GPL as being, this software is free to use and instead of paying to use it in a restricted manner (EULA stuff) your form of potential payment is to pay with your own code IF you modify it. This isn't to say one way is more correct than another but most of the complaints are just ridiculous. I think the last complaint you'd hear from a company is overworking their expensive lawyers to actually do work. ...Hey look at that, SDL is under LGPL and has a commercial license option, ALSA is LGPL, Crystal Space 3d engine is LGPL, Cube2 engine is ZLIB, which is hardly GPL. Maybe you need to get your facts straight by doing a simple google. Fact is, if you're a gaming company and you want to use an open source engine, call up your business lawyer/business rep like you would do if you were planning on licensing the crysis engine.

Re:Guesstimates? (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830515)

I'm no fan of the GPL, but this is just plain nonsense. If you use a GPL'd library on Windows (or OS X), then your game engine has to be GPL'd too. It's true, but completely irrelevant. Linux is GPL'd, but from the point of view of an application developer, this is completely irrelevant because you don't link against the kernel directly. Things like X.org, and all of the OpenGL stuff are all MIT licensed, SDL is LGPL'd, and so on. It is trivially easy to develop on Linux and *BSD without using any GPL'd libraries.

Re:Guesstimates? (1)

jamesmcm (1354379) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830533)

Most libraries are LGPL though for that very reason. Having GPLd libraries can be handy though, as it'd be nice to see some Open Source game engines come to GNU/Linux.

Re:Guesstimates? (1)

Jestrzcap (46989) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830599)

It's not that people don't want to develop for linux. It's that the GPL is viral. If you use a GPL library for part of your game engine, you have to GPL the whole enchilada. Game content can be closed-source, but with the engine you have to go one way or the other: all open, or all closed.

Oh really? So any use of GPL means you have to open source your entire game? So all the games using openAL are in violation?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenAL [wikipedia.org]
Your statement about using GPL code is A) wrong and B) inflamitory

And lets pretend just for a moment that you were right and that using GPL'd code actually required you to open source your entire codebase. You don't have to use GPL'd code to program on Linux. There have been plenty of proprietary only programs (and even games) for linux.

Re:Guesstimates? (0)

Jestrzcap (46989) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830675)

Sigh, I of course pick the LGPL example. Still my second statement holds

Re:Guesstimates? (2, Informative)

Mad Merlin (837387) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830283)

The main problem with linux desktop usage is that all the games are made for Windows...

Not all games, Game! [wittyrpg.com] for example.

Re:Guesstimates? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27830453)

God Damn you, your Game! Has been single-handedly responsible for a 5% cut in my office productivity!

Re:Guesstimates? (1, Informative)

skiman1979 (725635) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830303)

The main problem with linux desktop usage is that all the games are made for Windows

What about this list of the Top 25 Linux Games for 2008 [whdb.com] ? There's a nice variety of games on that list from different genres.

I haven't played them all, but I have a few installed on my Gentoo system at home.

I'm sure there are other decent/good Linux games out there as well. You can also bring some Windows games to Linux via WINE. There are some popular games on their Top 10 Platinum List [winehq.org] and the Top 10 Gold List (scroll down past Platinum) on the WINE appdb site including World of Warcraft, Eve Online, Guild Wars, Counter Strike: Source, Silkroad Online, Half-Life 2, and others.

So it's not like gaming on Linux is non-existant. It's much more than just simple games like kbounce or kasteroids, kminesweeper or the other 10+ mini-games (like Solitare on Windows) that come with the OS.

Re:Guesstimates? (2, Funny)

bodger_uk (882864) | more than 5 years ago | (#27829859)

There it is! The most intelligent 1st post ever created.

Although the analogy of the consequences of using a, admittedly daft, word is a little over the top.

Re:Guesstimates? (-1, Offtopic)

revjtanton (1179893) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830583)

I hate people who use socks w/ sandals. ...and Jason Patrick! eeeewwwwww

Re:Guesstimates? (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830659)

Estimate to me implies some data goes into a process, and comes out the other side, now, either the Process used to process the data was incomplete (for example, it was a Taylor series) or if the data itself was only a sample of a larger population (Like a TV ratings list)

A Guesstimate, that shudderingly horrible portmanteu, would say to me that you had no data, or no process, and really, just imagined what the numbers were.

no way of knowing for sure (4, Insightful)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 5 years ago | (#27829819)

since most all Linux distros can be downloaded anonymously for free from many servers/mirrors around the world there is no way of knowing for sure...

Re:no way of knowing for sure (1, Insightful)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#27829839)

Plus that one download could be used to install an unlimited number of computers, so even counting people that complete the download might not be correct.

Re:no way of knowing for sure (2, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#27829977)

Or you could be like me and have 8 differn't ISO that you run in VMWare just to keep up with what they are doing.
Heck I don't even know where you would count me. I run Linux and Windows on my desktop. If your a Windows Fan I guess you count me as a Windows user if your a Linux fan I am a Linux user.

Re:no way of knowing for sure (4, Insightful)

Rary (566291) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830205)

Plus that one download could be used to install an unlimited number of computers, so even counting people that complete the download might not be correct.

Plus there's people like me who download multiple different releases of multiple different distributions just to try them out, or to use them on servers, but still use Windows on the desktop.

Re:no way of knowing for sure (4, Interesting)

Dystopian Rebel (714995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27829961)

It would be foolish to count downloads for this purpose. However, Canonical could surely count update requests to repositories, for example.

Re:no way of knowing for sure (2, Informative)

Tribaal_ch (1192815) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830299)

I did set up a mirror for all of our company's workstations (32), so canonical would see us as one user...

Re:no way of knowing for sure (2, Funny)

ausekilis (1513635) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830021)

Just ask MediaSentry to look up the number of *nix distros flying around torrents. Then we'd have a good 30% market share.

Just wait... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27829821)

Can't wait until Wolfram Alpha goes online. This question will finally be answered once and for all.

Re:Just wait... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830357)

That's a good point, we might also be able to figure out when the year of Linux is going to be and have something more reliable than netcraft to confirm things.

Re:Just wait... (1)

melikamp (631205) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830379)

Will we finally find out the question to 42?

I Am Completely Happy With Underestimating Linux (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27829833)

While you may claim it prevents the self-fulfilling "tipping point" of everyone switching to it because everyone else is using it, I have no complaints with Microsoft and Apple thinking that they have nothing to worry about from Linux until it's too late. What do big dogs do when small dogs start to threaten their dominance? They try to kill them. I actually prefer the "slowly but surely until it's too late" scenario.

Re:I Am Completely Happy With Underestimating Linu (1)

AnalPerfume (1356177) | more than 5 years ago | (#27829967)

I tend to think of Mac's & *nix being around the same market share, perhaps around 7-8% but both growing by the month as Microsoft piss off more and more people. It will be a while before either get to a significant chunk of what Microsoft once had but took for granted, but slowly it's getting there.

Re:I Am Completely Happy With Underestimating Linu (1)

AnalPerfume (1356177) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830005)

Forgot to add, that it's gonna vary from country to country too, just like Firefox numbers. Some countries have more resistance to Microsoft bullies than others.

Re:I Am Completely Happy With Underestimating Linu (5, Insightful)

onion2k (203094) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830159)

It's the analysts who are (probably) underestimating Linux. You can be absolutely certain that both MSFT and AAPL are very aware of their competition. They'll both have labs full of Linux installs (plus OSX and Windows respectively) where they examine what new things are added, old things removed, what's fixed and what's left broken. These are companies with billion dollar budgets. Spending maybe a million (20 staff plus a big office) to research your competition is obvious.

Re:I Am Completely Happy With Underestimating Linu (4, Interesting)

rabbit994 (686936) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830441)

Actually, on the Desktop side, Ballmer during a investor meeting said biggest competition to Windows on Desktop is pirated Windows. Linux and Apple are blips and while they continue to make headway, it's extremely slow and not that large of a threat.

Re:I Am Completely Happy With Underestimating Linu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27830569)

I work at Apple. I don't know (or care) what Microsoft does, but we don't have labs of linux or windows computers. Obviously, we need windows for testing our windows software (Safari, iTunes, QT, Boot Camp etc) but the kind of research you're suggesting doesn't happen and would be a huge liability in a patent/copyright lawsuit.

Re:I Am Completely Happy With Underestimating Linu (1)

melikamp (631205) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830439)

I agree. I especially like it when some government agency or other switches without much ado, or comes out saying that they have it running the back end. Because one thing I do not see in the future is people converting from an established Linux solution back to Windows: the costs would appear to be astronomical.

Re:I Am Completely Happy With Underestimating Linu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27830505)

Ah... Linux adopts the Ralph Kramden [wikipedia.org] approach... bluster about some indeterminate point in the future when you're going to totally kick someone's ass.

"One of these days, Microsoft, TO THE MOON!"

Re:I Am Completely Happy With Underestimating Linu (2, Insightful)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830549)

While you may claim it prevents the self-fulfilling "tipping point" of everyone switching to it because everyone else is using it, I have no complaints with Microsoft and Apple thinking that they have nothing to worry about from Linux until it's too late. What do big dogs do when small dogs start to threaten their dominance? They try to kill them. I actually prefer the "slowly but surely until it's too late" scenario.

Fair analogy, although, while we're doing animal analogies, I would look at MS or Apple as the "big dogs" and Linux as a shitload of bees holding the (important but not cruical) hive together. The difference being that even if a bee is lost, or even the hive itself, it's not over, whilst the dog is one.

Confusion (3, Interesting)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 5 years ago | (#27829863)

Sadly the article seems to confuse install share and market share, not just confusing the phrases, but using them concepts interchangeably. For some uses, this does not matter, while for others it matters a great deal. That and the fact that the article ends with a cop out, "We have no way of knowing which is closest to the truth" makes this pretty useless.

Re:Confusion (2, Insightful)

value_added (719364) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830305)

Sadly the article seems to confuse install share and market share, not just confusing the phrases, but using them concepts interchangeably.

I'd go farther. The term "market" is sufficiently ambiguous and using it invites all sorts of connotations that simply aren't applicable, or are relevant only in narrowly-defined circumstances. For the vast majority of downloads and installations, there is no money changing hands so there is no "market".

Sales v downloads (1)

AnalPerfume (1356177) | more than 5 years ago | (#27829893)

Most of these types of figures are always done with sales, and since Windows is the only pre-installed option on a new PC and counts as a Windows sale when you buy it (even though you were buying a PC, not Windows) it's always gonna skew the figures. Even when your PC leaves the store with XP on it, it's on the books as a Vista sale. The game is rigged. The fact that Linux is not available in many outlets as a purchase it will never gain any parity.

You could look at downloads, but not every download is installed, not every install stays that way. Some are installed on many PC's with the same CD. Each distro has their own counts and ways of counting / estimating. Personally I like the Fedora way of counting the number of unique IPs hitting their repos.

Even if there was an accurate way of estimating, it'd be bought by Microsoft to ensure it knew who to make the winner.

Easy solution (5, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#27829911)

Go out on the street. Talk to about 1000 people. Ask them what operating system they have on their home computer.

My prediction on the results

Huh?: 45%
Windows: 25%
No Computer: 20%
Mac: 8%
Linux: 2%

Re:Easy solution (2, Insightful)

downix (84795) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830053)

Mine would be:

Windows: 35%
Mac: 9%
Dell: 3%
IBM: 4%
What's an Operating System?: 40%
Linux: 2%
I don't have a computer: the rest.

Re:Easy solution (3, Funny)

Big Nothing (229456) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830125)

My prediction would be:

Huh?: 50%
Word: 10%
Internet: 10%
Windows: 10%
No computer: 10%
Mac: 8%
Linux: 2%

There probably should be an option with ISPs in there, but I can't be bothered.

Re:Easy solution (5, Funny)

Jestrzcap (46989) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830353)

Man did this make me regress. Back when I was doing tech support and I had to ask what ISP people used I tended to get all kinds of wonderful answers.

Me: "I just need to ask you a few questions to better understand your problem"
Them: "Ok"
Me: "What internet service provider are you using?"

Them1: "Netscape"
Them2: "Internet Explorer"
Them3: "Windows?"
Them4: "I don't have one"
Everyone else: "AOL"

Me: "What operating system are you using"

Them1: "Dell"
Them2: "Netscape"
Them3: "AOL"
Them4: "I don't have one"

Re:Easy solution (1)

Swizec (978239) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830129)

In most cases a "Huh" can be resolved with the question "What computer do you have?" and they will answer either Mac or Windows, but most probably Windows. Remember, people are buying COMPUTER most of them don't understand that there's an OS running on it, it's just a computer, much like a radio.

Do YOU know what OS/firmware your television/radio/refridgerator/telephone/dishwasher/washingMachine/etc are running? I didn't think so.

Re:Easy solution (1)

KeX3 (963046) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830525)

Remember, people are buying COMPUTER most of them don't understand that there's an OS running on it, it's just a computer, much like a radio.

Do YOU know what OS/firmware your television/radio/refridgerator/telephone/dishwasher/washingMachine/etc are running? I didn't think so.

Big difference. "You" (as in your average person, and the more than average persons, in fact most people outside of the ones employed in a tight area around the manufacturer) cannot change the OS on your fridge/dishwasher/whattamajig, so it's a bit of a moot point.

If I can't change it, I couldn't care less about what it's running. That's not saying I would care if I could change it, but the unchangeability of it makes complete ignore that factor. There are some lights on my fridge indicating temperature, and buttons for me to change it, it all looks suspiciously analogue to me, so I can't even say that it runs AN os, it could all be hardwired. Which would make upgrades a bitch :p

Re:Easy solution (1)

Swizec (978239) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830689)

However, on most phones, mp3 players and other gadget crap you can at least update the firmware if nothing else. Hell, I'm fairly confident last weekend my BlackBerry automatically updated itself for some reason since certain things started looking differently. I know for certain I wen through a lot of trouble to udpate the firmware when I bought it ...

Some modern washing machines make it a selling point that they're running "advanced software to make laundry better" or whatnot. Well, what if they release a new version? Am I just gonna buy a new washing machine, maybe I'd rather upgrade the software with the new better whatever.

Similar for, say, a stove. There is SOMETHING running on that thing that controls the timer and all the snazzy functions nobody ever uses. If nothing else, I'd like soemthing that makes better use of the buttons so I actually know how to use it ...

Re:Easy solution (1)

3p1ph4ny (835701) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830719)

Do YOU know what OS/firmware your television/radio/refridgerator/telephone/dishwasher/washingMachine/etc are running?

In all of the cases you stated, it's almost certainly something proprietary developed by the manufacturer. If I had re-flashed it, then I'd know the source. What's your point?

Re:Easy solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27830733)

My HDTV is running on top of Linux. Does that count as "market share"?

Re:Easy solution (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830135)

You forgot "Microsoft", "Microsoft Office" and "Internet Explorer".

Seriously. A surprisingly large number of people are pretty unclear on the OS/application distinction.

Re:Easy solution (3, Interesting)

Americano (920576) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830527)

Most likely because a surprisingly large number of people equate their computer with what it does for them - the application is important to them, not the OS.

Re:Easy solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27830165)

Go out on the street. Talk to about 1000 people. Ask them what operating system they have on their home computer.

My prediction on the results

Huh?: 45% Windows: 25% No Computer: 20% Mac: 8% Linux: 2%

I could run that test on Microsoft's campus, on Google's campus, on the street outside of a LUG meeting just after it ended. The statistic is absolutely worthless. It's a very, very, small sample, probably even worse than most radio talk show polls.

And this is the same crowd that shouts about correlation and statistics endlessly after bad medical research papers are published...

Re:Easy solution (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830251)

Yes, I think that the usage of the Huh? operating system is seriously underestimated.

Re:Easy solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27830289)

Not quite as easy as that.
How do you calculate those people with duel (or more) boots? Or those that have to use one system at work but use another system at home? Or to go over the top, what about the poor soul who does the majority of software development on a mac at work occasionally booting into windows to test compatibility, checks his email through a linux server then goes home to his linux machine boots up windows in a virtual machine to play game xyz but also has a copy of OSX on that machine to tinker?

Re:Easy solution (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830341)

How do you calculate those people with duel (or more) boots?

I think you will find that most folks' shoes are more peaceful than that.

Missing Option: Internet (1)

starglider29a (719559) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830319)

"I don't have an operating system on my computer. I use the Internet."

You'd be amazed...

Re:Missing Option: Internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27830351)

Ah yes, the network is the computer.

Re:Easy solution (1)

Rary (566291) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830329)

It all depends on the neighbourhood you choose.

In the inner city, "No Computer" could hit 80% or more. In an artsy neighbourhood, "Mac" might get up into the 20% range. In a suburb with lots of teenagers living in the basement, "Linux" might even creep up into the double digits.

As a general rule, whatever the majority of Slashdot visitors think about desktop Linux use, the reality will be significantly smaller. We're a particularly non-representative demographic.

Re:Easy solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27830415)

Just don't do that near the entrance to a Linux expo.

Not Easy solution (1)

FranTaylor (164577) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830457)

What about people with more than one computer?

Do you want to know about only their "main" computer, or all of them?

If it's only their "main" computer, what about people who use two machines equally? One vote for one, no vote for the other? Half-votes?

If I can only vote once, how come, since I bought more than one computer?

If I get to vote more than once because I have more than one computer, how many votes do I get?

Do I get to vote for my old Sun3 that I haven't switched on in years?

Re:Easy solution (2, Funny)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830601)

Not to forget: "Operating System? No wait, I'm not a surgeon."

Re:Easy solution (1)

antikristian (856519) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830611)

Go out on the street.

This wouldn't really be fair to us Linux users though....

we don't spend much of our time out in the sun

Hmm, wait, it's 1.02% (5, Informative)

hattig (47930) | more than 5 years ago | (#27829937)

It's just tipped above 1% for consumer systems that are used for internet usage. http://techreport.com/discussions.x/16860 [techreport.com]

Munging together servers and clients is a pointless benchmark. Linux could have 30% of the server ecosystem, but that would make a 0.001% indent on client share.

Regardless, 1.02% is a far cry from 5 or 6 percent, never mind 10%. Who would even say that a Linux machine makes up 1 in 10 machines on the web, haven't they seen all the Windows machines, all the business machines, etc?

Re:Hmm, wait, it's 1.02% (0)

ciroknight (601098) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830073)

Re:Hmm, wait, it's 1.02%

.

According to one website, which is visited by some fraction of the number of actual Linux users. By that same method, 20% of the visitors to Slashdot probably use Linux, does that mean Linux has a 20% marketshare? How about Microsoft.com and its probable near 0% share?

Conclusion: There is just no way to accurately measure with any kind of precision the number of active Linux machines and Linux users.

what's a desktop? (4, Interesting)

xzvf (924443) | more than 5 years ago | (#27829939)

Seriously, how to you define desktop today? Linux holds a decent share of the POS/retail market. Are point of sale devices desktops? How about thin-clients? Some have a small Linux OS that RDP's to a Windows server. Is that a Linux or Windows desktop? I just finished a project where the thin clients were diskless and hosted totally on servers. Do I count the servers or the thin clients as desktops? At home I'm 80% Linux, 10% Mac and 10% Windows, but from the outside how am I counted.

It takes a long time to build market share (1)

HermMunster (972336) | more than 5 years ago | (#27829951)

Just as with any evaluation system it's not that different to assess Linux use as it is any other.

You can count the number of hits a series of websites get that come from a unique address over an extended period of time. The sampling of sites has to be pretty massive. You couldn't just use a few and the types of sites would have to vary significantly to get a good cross-section. That variations would also have to understand the Linux users will visit sites, at times, primarily targeted at Linux users.

I'm not one to go out and browse around the web. I get my news and follow links but rarely past the initial link. I will do Google searches but rather choose more than the first few off the first page to see if they match my needs. I visit specific sites such as Slashdot.org and a few others, but never really venture much farther even when I have a large history of bookmarks. There's just too much information out there with me having too many interests.

The failing of this type of system of measurement becomes noticeable when you consider that I may have downloaded 1 copy of Linux but I installed it on 12 machines internally. I also rarely visit the web on more than a couple of them. I use the OS as an OS not solely as a browser. Essentially 2-3 of the 12 would be counted when using web page hits as a measurement tool.

Re:It takes a long time to build market share (1)

hattig (47930) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830065)

Right, so now I'm reading the article.

1) He mentions a marketshare statistic that uses web share to estimate usage share of desktop machines. Not downloads (that might be used multiple times, or not at all). So why diss downloads immediately? The questions should be "Do Linux users visit the sites that contribute to these statistics more or less than Windows users? Do Linux users use the web more or less than Windows users?" and so on.

2) Android runs on Linux, the Linux kernel. But Android actually runs within its own environment that uses a custom VM that borrows heavily from Java, and very little of the Linux system underneath is available. What share of the desktop does Gnome or KDE have? That's the equivalent (and arguably in terms of desktop use, a more viable question that what share of the market does Linux have). I think it is right that the Android figures are accounted for separately.

Re:It takes a long time to build market share (1)

HermMunster (972336) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830367)

I addressed that in the first part. It's a matter of whether you sample a massive enough base of sites that you would cover those that Linux users visit. And you have to sample over a very long period of time.

And if I used all of my machines (as well as everyone elses) all the time to visit sites regularly you'd have a larger number of machines being represented.

Unlike Windows where you simply just count the number of unique product keys or the number of units sold.

We would never want to rely solely on site samplings but really, you couldn't rely on them as an absolute and you'd only be able to give them weight if a "MASSIVE" number of sites were used in the sampling method. And, you'd have to do this over a very long period of time, say a few years.

off the curve (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27829995)

3 laptops
1 tower
2 older towers to sell

winxp sp3, ubuntu 8.10, ubuntu 9.04
winxp sp3
ubuntu 7.10, ubuntu 8.04

so lets see, statistically
2/6 windows
4/6 ubuntu

but then again, i have been playing with linux since 1997 with debian and slackware on a pentium 133.

So how do dual booters count? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27830023)

I dual boot Ubuntu and Solaris on a sun sparc box. Which do I count as in terms of "desktop market share"?

Another (useless) data point (1)

CajunArson (465943) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830037)

The problem with being a Linux user is that you tend to find other people who use it and remember them more because it is unusual, then your own estimates of people who use Linux will run higher because you overvalue the data points you know about, and you lump all the other users out there into 1 data point, even if there are far more of them.

I can say that in my law school class of a little less than 200 people we are above the 1% mark... because there are 2 of us that use Linux as our regular OS. If anything the Mac userbase at school is probably quite a bit higher than it is in the general population, but there are still plenty of genero-crap Dells that I have to help revive from time to time.

Re:Another (useless) data point (1)

HermMunster (972336) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830561)

Hopefully you'll take that Linux use with you to your job as an attorney and then encourage the use of it and open standards via your employees and the court system, thus encouraging competition and ensuring that vendor "lock in" is minimized.

It's more important that we have competition than we have Linux but both would be just cool.

One thought that came to mind was regarding the intelligence of the people in your class. If they were presented with Linux would any switch? Would they just say that they don't have time to learn another OS or what? Would that be considered a strength on their part or a failure.

Tough to estimate (1)

kellyb9 (954229) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830097)

I think a more important question is, how many people use Linux as their primary desktop? I know I have several Linux machines and only one Windows machine at this point, however, I tend to use the Windows machine much more frequently because it has far superior hardware. My Linux machines are more or less on-going projects typically.

Re:Tough to estimate (1)

HermMunster (972336) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830487)

I do, I do. /Raises hand.

I can say that I have also put it on many casual users systems over the past year that are using it as their primary desktop. Everyone that does this is a win for Linux as it spreads things out a lot. People took their computer use home. They then demanded better computers at work. This meant that the average person drove the direction we are in. Getting the average person aware of Linux now that software has matured on both sides of the fence will be the catalyst to growth in market share for Linux.

Just talk about Linux to family and friends and you'll really make a difference over the long haul.

Browser Percentages (2, Insightful)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830119)

If you took reports from major websites (Google, ESPN, Yahoo, MSN, etc, etc), I think that would be the best metric for filling in any gaps.

That would give you a percentage of an OS actually used.

Oh, numbers are objective. But raw facts do not come with their own correct interpretation.

Re:Browser Percentages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27830409)

Depends, certain sites attract certain demographics and skew the results.

Google is probably the only one that is relatively neutral. Maybe Amazon too. Possibly Yahoo but I can say I'm a full time Linux user and I never go to Yahoo for anything. MSN would definitely be skewed very badly.

Re:Browser Percentages (1)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830535)

I understand your concerns, which is why I included MSN. It would capture grandmom who just opens up IE.

But I would let statistical/polling experts figure out the details. But I think the general idea holds.

Re:Browser Percentages (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830513)

to bad google trends do not have a way to show browser usage...

Re:Browser Percentages (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830531)

While it would be true that it would give you a percentage of actual usage, it still wouldn't be a valid estimate of actual Linux market share, as a lot of desktop users have Linux, but don't use it as their primary OS, instead they dual boot into it. I wouldn't be surprised if the actual usage count is at 1%, while the install base is more around the 10%.

Re:Browser Percentages (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830683)

If you took reports from major websites (Google, ESPN, Yahoo, MSN, etc, etc), I think that would be the best metric for filling in any gaps. That would give you a percentage of an OS actually used.

Counting web hits is a very common technique. Here [w3counter.com] is a recent survey showing 2% market share for Linux, and here [hitslink.com] is one showing 1%. That shows that the technique is very crude -- uncertain by at least a factor of two. There are all kinds of reasons for that uncertainty. Many user agent [wikipedia.org] strings are bogus, often because someone is trying to work around servers that lock you out unless you have a certain string. Every web site is going to have its own demographic. Unique users are notoriously hard to identify in server logs.

try an argument with a committed partisan (4, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830143)

say, for or against gun control

and both sides trot out numbers, facts, that support their assertions

when the truth of course is that various quantities out of context can be twisted or misunderstood as to meaning

simply put, when dealing in the hard sciences, numbers rule. but when you get into politics, religion, sociology: numbers mean shit

but try telling this to a committed partisan when you debate them on various issues. they take your avoidance of numbers and their dubious meaning as some sort of implicit admission of defeat

when in reality, the issues are one of logic, reason, and principles, not bullshit numbers and their essential uselessness in supporting what you think they support

One unmentioned problem of counting *nix users (1)

cptnapalm (120276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830155)

One of the primary problems of estimating the number of users who use Linux or the BSDs is that, if they use them there, they likely use Windows at work. So at work they tally in the Windows column, even though it is only because they have to.

I think in order to get a better picture, they need to estimate the number of Windows users who are using it at work and then cut them out. The comparison of what is left would give a better idea, I would think, about what people use when they have a choice in the matter.

Desktop hours (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27830173)

Just to add a little more confusion:

The folks I know who use Windows at home, and there a lot of them, don't tend to use their computers very much. The folks who use Linux at home use their computers a lot.

One way to estimate the number of desktops is to use web statistics. Since each Linux desktop is probably used twice as much as each Windows desktop, the net based statistics probably over-state the number of Linux desktops.

On the other hand, a seldom used Windows box really isn't very important in the grand scheme of things, is it? Because of what they are used for and how long they are used, Linux boxes are probably much more important or consequential than Windows boxen.

Discuss.

Measure? What measure? (1)

jonnyj (1011131) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830215)

One problem with estimating Linux desktop market share is there's no one definition of market share. Is that worldwide share, English-speaking world share or USA share? Is it a share of operating system licence revenues, support revenues, the cost of hardware on which Linux is installed or is revenue irrelevant? If it's usage-based, do you count physical machines or virtual machines? Does it matter how much a machine is used; if so, do powered-up unattended desktops count? Or is web usage the best metric? If so, should you include non-PC web usage: phones, games consoles and the like?

There's no one answer because there's no one question. So, as with many statistics, you need to choose a proxy measure with some care and pay more attention to trends than to absolute numbers. Like the original article, I incline to the view that Net Applications' data presents a measure (hits to websites that are usually commercial and US based) that provides an unusually low estimate of Linux usage. However, Net Applications has provided consistently measured data for some years, so its analysis is extremely valuable. And the trend is clear - Linux is consistently growing in popularity and, in percentage terms, it's growing dramatically quickly.

Re:Measure? What measure? (2, Interesting)

ThrowAwaySociety (1351793) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830581)

Agreed. Even the words "market share" are almost meaningless for Linux. "Market share" is the share of the market...how exactly do you count sales for something that's given away for free?

If I buy a PC with an OEM Windows license, then download and install Linux on that box, what does that mean? I've given money to Microsoft in exchange for a product, and no money to any of its competitors. Obviously, a market share point in MS's favor.

The Net Applciations numbers track "usage share" (the percentage of people using Linux for day-to-day tasks) and is probably the most meaningful if you were, say, trying to figure out whether to port your desktop app or game to Linux. (This number is skewed slightly since a large percentage of web surfing is done from work PCs...if you're a game developer, you don't care about work PCs.)

TFA also suggests counting Firefox downloads. That's a seperate quantity, akin to counting the number of Ubunto ISOs downloaded. It gives you the number of people experimenting with Linux, not necessarily using it. Naturally this is higher than the Net Applications number...my two Linux VMs both count toward this number, even though I spend less than 5% of my time playing with them.

As for USA vs. Europe/Asia...well, it kind of depends on why you care. If you're just a armchair Linux advocate, then you'll get the warm fuzzies hearing about global Linux adoption. If you're a US software corporation, you probably don't give a rat's ass.

why care about market share? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27830225)

Seriously. As long as there are enough people writing good software, who cares?

Majority market share brings with it:

* Being a virus/malware/spyware target
* Dumbing everything down for the least common denominator
* Insecurity through monocultures
* A ton of crap loaded onto new machines
* Every app in the world putting its own icon on your taskbar

Seriously, folks... if it meets your needs, it doesn't *matter* what the next guy over is using. If Linux should ever achieve 90% market share, or even 50%, I'm off to greener pastures.

Don't make the mistake of thinking Linux is malware-proof. It's not. It's just not much of a target with a few percent market share.

Linux runs all the software to do the tasks I need to do, and then some. That's sufficient. I don't need to be personally validated by having the rest of the world run what I do. Anything that attracts the Public At Large is *always* going to be crap. Let's leave our little NON-crap corner of the world go by unnoticed, whatdya say?

If X is any good, the first rule of X is you don't talk about X...

Preloading the final frontier. (1)

BlueKitties (1541613) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830355)

Not to jump off topic, but personally, I don't think market shares are as important as having the systems preloaded on off-the-shelf computers from places like BestBuy. While it may be gaining popularity among tech savvy fellows with an iPod, it's a simple matter of fact that most average folk are ~afraid~ to reload their OS. The "year of the Linux desktop" will never come until you can buy one off the shelf. Once it happens, ordinary people will ~finally~ be exposed. Also, the economy of Linux systems will become apparent when consumers have to pay -extra- to "upgrade" to Windows.

how do you? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27830481)

How do you count someone who used Linux, BSD, and Windows, either in a multi-boot system, or on separate computers? There is truly no way to get a hard number for ANY OS. There is no way at all. A downloaded ISO of Linux or BSD could have been burned to one disk, or many. or it might not have been used at all. How many are using pirated cracked copies of Windows?

Sure, you can count corporations that buy licenses for Windows, or that have switched to Linux etc... Same with government agencies, but even that will not necessarily be an accurate number for those cases.

Any kind of hard number of who is using what is just not possible. Anything but a hard, provable number is just a wild-assed guess.

statistics like this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27830603)

You know, 95% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

Some stats and my own estimate... (5, Informative)

danhuby (759002) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830647)

I run a couple of sites that probably cover both extremes in terms of Linux desktop market share. The stats are as follows:

Site 1: A local community site based in the UK; so the profile here is 'UK home user' (I find similar figures for other UK home focused sites I manage).

Windows 92%
Mac 6%
Linux 1.5%

Site 2: A site for an open source business application; the profile is therefore 'global IT worker / developer'. The picture is very different.

Windows 60%
Mac 30%
Linux 9%

The actual figure is between 1.5% and 9% then, depending on the ratio between home/office workers. As I imagine there are more home desktops than work desktops, my leaning would be towards the lower end of the scale.

3% to 5% seems like a reasonable estimate.

Dan

Family Guy and "Guesstimate" (1)

revjtanton (1179893) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830681)

"

(Stewie has shrunk himself and inserted himself into Peter's body to kill sperm. He doesn't want a little brother until he meets his match--his sperm brother who looks and acts like him.)

Stewie: You hate Lois? I hate Lois too! What, what else do you hate?
Sperm Bro: People who send pictures of their families as Christmas Cards!
Stewie: People who use the word "guesstimate."
Sperm Bro: Guys who wear sandals with socks!
Stewie & Sperm Bro in unison: JASON PATRICK! (flap hands effiminently, jump up and down and say "EWWWW!" together)."

What counts? (2, Interesting)

Cyner (267154) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830713)

Part of the problem is also establishing what counts? I personally have 4 "Desktops" around the house with a Unix-like OS. Do those all count toward the total? Or should they count for two since only two people use them?
And what about the boxes I have that I no longer use? Most of them are also non-Windows PCs.

I can see where 1% of users might be Linux, and a much higher number (though 10% seems darn high) of boxes are Linux.

Can't we all agree (5, Funny)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 5 years ago | (#27830731)

The number is somewhere between 0 and 100%

This being the internet, I look forward to somebody disagreeing with me.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...