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Linux inches up on desktop, holds steady on servers
Jun. 08, 2010

Linux' share of the desktop market grew to 1.13 percent, says Net Applications, making Linux the only OS to gain in May. Meanwhile, Linux server revenue share grew to 16.8 percent, says IDC, and Linux is now running on 91 percent of the 500 fastest supercomputers.

Linux has soared in recent years in the embedded world, especially with the Linux-based Android giving it a boost in smartphone sales. More fun is on the way, according to ABI Research, which recently projected that Linux-based mobile operating systems, led by Android, will own 33 percent of the global smartphone market by 2015, with a growth rate that is faster than the robust smartphone market at large.

The story has not been quite so upbeat on the desktop Linux front. Still, the latest Net Applications report shows that as of the end of May, Linux inched up to a 1.13 percent share of the PC desktop market. At first glance, this would not appear to offer much to cheer about, yet Linux was also the only OS to register an increase, says the report.

While Linux rose 0.08 percent in May, moving up from 1.05 percent in April, Windows dropped 0.18 percent to 91.28 percent, and Mac OS dipped 0.05 percent to 5.27 percent, says Net Applications.

Linux passed the 1 percent mark only last year, according to the research firm. In Oct. 2008, Net Applications pegged Linux desktop share at 0.71 percent, up from 0.47 percent in Aug. 2007.

Some Linux aficionados have argued that the Net Applications undercounts Linux users. For example, users who buy a Windows PC, but then switch to Linux or go dual-boot, are said to be off the radar.

It has also been argued that the international market is not fully counted, especially in sales of Linux netbooks to emerging nations. Last November, ABI Research surprised the industry by claiming that Linux would represent some 32 percent of global netbook sales by the end of the 2009. Although some have questioned those numbers, the general consensus seems to be that this is closer to reality than Microsoft's estimate of 7 percent share for Linux.

True, netbooks are still a relatively small part of the total desktop market. Yet, with the growth of cheap Linux-based netbooks in developing countries, such as the Ubuntu-ready Simmtronics Simmbook shown at right, Linux desktop share may well be a few percentage points higher than Net Applications estimates.

IDC: Linux holds the line on servers

For years, Linux has been grabbing server market share from Unix, as well as, to a lesser extent, Microsoft's Windows Server. The latest Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker report from IDC showed that by the end of the first quarter of 2010, Linux is holding steady while Windows Server has seen the greatest gains.

Although Linux server share in unit sales dipped slightly from 21.2 percent in 4Q 2009 to 20.8 percent in the first quarter, revenues based on those server sales grew 20.4 percent to $1.7 billion when compared with the first quarter of 2009, says the report. This translated into a 16.2 percent share of server revenue, up 2.1 points says IDC.

Windows Server hardware revenue increased 33.6 percent year over year to $5.1 billion (48.9 percent share), says IDC. Unit sales, meanwhile, increased 28.3 percent over the same period to 1.38 million units, representing a 75.3 percent share, says the research firm.

By comparison, Unix servers experienced 29 percent revenue decline when compared to 1Q 09, says IDC. Also in the loser column were non-x86 servers, including servers based on RISC, EPIC, and CISC processors. These segments were said to have declined 25.9 year over year to $3.6 billion in 1Q 2010.

Despite the rise in Linux server revenue, the dip in unit sales may indicate a bit of a slowdown in Linux's advance on the server front, possibly due to the easing of the recession. A study published by IDC in Apr. 2009 reported that in evaluating the overall server ecosystem, which includes hardware spending, Linux was growing at a nine percent rate in the early, recession plagued months of 2009.
A major factor in the huge growth in open source software in recent years has been the greater affordability compared to Windows-based software and proprietary platforms. With the recession easing, however, that motivation may not be as strong.

And the recession does indeed appear to be receding, suggests the server study. According to IDC, overall factory revenue in the worldwide server market increased 4.7 percent year over year to $10.4 billion in the first quarter, representing the first quarter of year-over-year revenue growth in seven quarters. Server unit shipments were said to have increased 23.3 percent year over year, representing the fastest year-over-year quarterly server shipment growth in more than five years.

Study: Linux runs on 91 percent of supercomputers

Finally, Linux continues its takeover of the high performance computing (HPC) market, especially at the very top of the computing foodchain where the supercomputers dwell. According to ITNews, the Top500 report issued by UC Berkeley at the end of May showed that some 470 of the world's 500 fastest supercomputers run Linux, while 25 run another version of Unix (mostly AIX), and the remaining five run Windows HPC 2008. In other words, Linux runs on some 91 percent of the world's fastest computers, says Top500.

The latest report also shows an increase in Linux among the top 500 computers. According to ITNews, of the 187 new entrants to the list, all but one are running Linux. A year ago, Linux was said to have accounted for 88.6 percent, or 443, of the top 500 supercomputers. Back in 2006, Top500 pegged Linux as powering 75 percent of the top 500 supercomputers.

Once again, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Cray XT5 Jaguar is said to be the fastest computer in the world, with a sustained performance of 1.76 PFlop/s, according to the study. A new Chinese entrant called Nebulae has achieved second place, helped out by its higher peak performance of 2.98 PFlop/s, compared to Jaguar's peak of 2.33 PFlop/s.


The Net Applications survey of desktop market share by OS may be found here, and a chart showing Linux market share trends should be here.

The IDC press release on its first-quarter "Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker," may be found here, and the report itself may be found here.

The Top500 press release may be found here, and the list itself should be here.

The ITNews story on the report should be here.

-- Eric Brown

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