The old “market share” debate is one that’s all too familiar to most Linux fans, particularly the tired — not to mention wildly unrealistic — “1 percent” figure detractors love to cite as desktop Linux’s portion.
So it was hard not to sit up and take notice earlier this month when the Pingdom blog published a post entitled “The top 20 strongholds for desktop Linux.”
“There are some countries where people have embraced Linux on the desktop to a greater degree than most,” the post explains before going on to present a list of the top 20 countries on the planet by local desktop operating system market share.
0.76 Percent Worldwide?
The results are a mixed bag. Cuba takes first place, with Linux claiming more than 6 percent of the local desktop market there, while India weighs in at No. 20, with Linux accounting for 1.26 percent, according to the StatCounter data Pingdom used.
Particularly notable are the complete absence of the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom from the top 20 list, as well as the 0.76 percent figure Pingdom offers for Linux’s worldwide market share.
Can this less-than-encouraging list really represent the true state of affairs on the Linux desktop? Let’s just say bloggers have had plenty to say on that point.
‘Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics!’
“There are three types of lies in the world: Lies, damned lies and statistics!” Thoughts on Technology blogger and Bodhi Linux lead developer Jeff Hoogland told LinuxInsider over a Tipsy Tux Twist down at the Broken Windows Lounge.
“Market share is one of those never-ending arguments in the Linux world,” Hoogland explained. “How can we track it? Do we do it by ISO image downloads? Nope — a single download can count for multiple installs.”
The problem with using Web statistics as a means of judging market share, meanwhile, “is that it fails to account for piles of computers in limited- or no-Internet countries,” Hoogland added. “Beyond this, it also fails to identify the countless Linux systems that are forced to use user agent changers on websites that require Windows/OS X to view.
“Is Linux beating Windows on the desktop? Hardly,” Hoogland concluded. “At the same time, though, I am not sure I agree with that wonder ‘1 percent’ number that is thrown around so often. In the end, I don’t think we will ever know.”
Blogger Robert Pogson took an even stronger view.
“Those numbers are seriously WRONG!” Pogson exclaimed. “Brazil has about 20 percent of production in GNU/Linux PCs. Brazil, France, Russia, Spain, Germany, India, China and Malaysia actively promote GNU/Linux on desktops and pump them into schools and government offices.”
Brazil also “has a PC-making industry that cranks them out,” he added. “Thin clients run more than 10 percent of desktops, and many of them have a minimal GNU/Linux installation showing the pictures and sending the clicks.”
‘Retailers Cannot Get Them’
The only reason Linux’s market share is low in some regions is that “retailers refuse to stock GNU/Linux systems or cannot get them from OEMs,” Pogson asserted.
In many parts of the world, however, “you can buy identical systems side-by-side with different operating systems, including GNU/Linux as a choice,” he pointed out.
“In emerging markets all over the world, newbies are buying their first PC and are very sensitive to price,” Pogson noted. “The netbook and smart thingies are bringing them in droves. People do use smartphones as their primary PC for many purposes.”
‘Dictators, Thugs and Crappy Internet’
Slashdot blogger and Windows fan hairyfeet took a different view.
“It is dictatorships and thugs and places with no or crappy Internet” where Linux does well on the desktop, hairyfeet asserted.
Control is the reason, he added: “FOSS lets them hook spying software into the deepest levels of the OS, and the peasants don’t have the education or knowledge to remove it. Kinda hard for dissident groups to organize when everything they write can be shipped back to dear leader by their FOSS OS.”
‘Just Report All Suspected Piracy’
Slashdot blogger Barbara Hudson, meanwhile, echoed Hoogland’s view.
“Lies, damn lies, statistics and linux on the desktop,” began Hudson, who goes by “Tom” on Slashdot. “If people really want to see Linux on the desktop, just report any and all suspected software piracy on both Windows and Apple where you work,” Hudson suggested.
“Only when the costs of compliance and the annoyance of software license audits becomes more painful than the costs of switching will businesses make the move,” she explained. “Software costs can be passed on to the customer; pain, on the other hand, can’t be so easily dispensed with.”
‘We Need More Apps’
Another result of that strategy would be to create “that critical mass — a market large enough to encourage companies to port their software,” Hudson added.
More likely, however, “we’ll just have to wait for mobile apps to be compelling enough to displace desktop software running on a proprietary OS,” she predicted.
Indeed, “right now Linux works best in niches where all of the apps that are needed are already available,” consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack opined. “If we want more desktops, we need more apps.”