IDC Says Linux Will Surpass The Mac OS On The Desktop In 2003-2004 January 3rd, 2003
According to a ZDNet report, IDC is saying that the Mac OS is going to be surpassed as the #2 desktop operating system by the various flavors of Unix. This, according to the research firm, will happen "sometime during the next year or so."
IDC says that Linux systems accounted for 1.7% of desktop sales in 2001, up from 1.5% in 2000, and that the rate of Linux switchers has continued to grow. The firm points to the Lindows systems being sold through Wal-Mart, as well as the numerous other Linux distributions being offered in one form or another, as signs of the ascendancy of the open source OS.
Linux has long been a power house in the server market, and this latest prognostication from, destined for our Apple Death Knell Counter, says that Linux on the desktops of consumers and businesses is growing so fast that it will eclipse Apple in the near future. Specifically, the ZDNet article closes with:
IDC expects that Linux will become the No. 2 desktop OS in the next year or two, surpassing the Mac OS, and will continue to hold this rank for the remainder of the company's five-year forecast.
You can find the full article, in all its glory, at ZDNet's Web site.
We like Linux at TMO. Some of our site is hosted on Linux (the rest is being served on a FreeBSD powered server). We admire the open source community, and we like Linux users. We think that Linux poses a great alternative to Windows, especially in the corporate market, and that having another alternative to Mac OS X actually helps open doors for both Apple and the open source market. That's a mind share issue.
At the same time, while Linux is getting better all the time, the very nature of the open source market (i.e. that it's free) will eventually force a sort of cap on the improvements that are possible, especially in terms of support and commercial applications, even while that same nature helps build the market now. Where there's a floor, there's a ceiling.
In the world wide market, that's not as much of an issue. I see Linux as gaining enormous ground in governmental uses, and perhaps in business, something ZDNet also noted in its article. This is particularly true for the third world, as well as many other emerging markets where people can afford neither the Microsoft tax nor Apple's hardware. That's where real Linux growth on the desktop will occur.
In fact, it is only if you look at the worldwide market, that it becomes possible, perhaps even likely, for Linux to eventually surpass the Mac OS, and that is simply because of the sheer number of people in these emerging markets. China alone, for instance, will eventually represent a significant percentage of the computer market, and Linux is already a force in that country. The rest of the market is comprised of pirated versions of Windows, and that is the bitch slap of reality calling.
The very nature of the markets where Linux will excel means that market share from those markets is irrelevant. More importantly, that is just as true for Microsoft as it is for Apple. If there isn't any money changing hands, due either from piracy or open source software, including market share from these emerging markets when looking at the current technology strongholds of the US, Europe, and Japan is an apples and oranges comparison (double entendre intended).
It would be great if Apple could compete in emerging markets, but the reality is that small grey box assemblers, and larger manufacturers bundling Linux are the kinds of companies that will thrive in most emerging markets. That leaves out Microsoft and Apple alike, but it doesn't change anything in either companies' existing operations. These emerging markets are for all intents and purposes a new world.
As long as Apple's user base continues to grow, even if that growth doesn't keep pace in terms of market share, the Mac market will thrive. If developers can make a good living competing in this market, and if Mac consumers can get the products they want, the Mac platform will continue to thrive.
So, yes, Linux will continue to grow, but will it grow so fast as to overtake the Mac OS in 2003, or even 2004?
No way. Absolutely no way.
Will Linux pass the Mac OS on the desktop in the US, Europe, or Japan during the forseeable future?
Will Apple's user base shrink and its constituency turn to Linux?
Do Lindows systems on Wal-Mart shelves threaten Apple?
"No!" so hard, it's laughable.
Do Linux systems outselling Macs, or even Windows, in China matter to Apple's future?
In the US, Europe, and Japan, the Mac OS will likely remain the #2 OS for many years to come, and it will take time for growth in other markets to allow Linux's presence in those markets to overwhelm Apple's market share as we measure it today. Even when that happens, it won't be relevant to what we think of as market share today.
You can quote me on that.
began using Apple computers in 1983 in a high school BASIC programming class. He started using Macs in 1990 when the Kinko's guy taught him how to use Aldus PageMaker, finally buying a Power Computing Power 100 in 1995. Today, Bryan is the Editor of The Mac Observer, and has contributed to the print versions of MacAddict and MacFormat (UK).