Study: Linux Use Growing, But So is Windows Piracy

A report from technology research and analysis firm Gartner, Inc. reveals that while the installed base of personal computers running the Linux operating system is growing steadily, two-fifths of them are likely to end up running a pirated version of the Windows OS.

As a result, the number of desktop Linux PCs that ship will exceed the actual percentage of Linux machines that get installed in the real world, the report said. Desktop Linux will account for about 5% of desktops shipped worldwide in 2004, according to the report, with 9.8% of the desktops in Asia shipping with Linux this year. However, the installed base of Linux will come to only 1.3%.

In 2005, more than 11% of new PCs in emerging markets - Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, Latin America and Asia/Pacific - will ship with Linux, but three-quarters of them will end up running Windows.

Gartner analyst Annette Jump claims that by 2008, 7.5% of PCs will ship with Linux, but even then half will eventually run Windows. Ms. Jump claims vendors in the emerging PC markets often sell machines with Linux to avoid paying Microsoftis license fees.

"What we found in these markets is that the percentage of PCs shipping with Linux instead of Windows is anywhere from 15% to 30%," Ms. Jump told The Mac Observer, Friday. "But when you look at the numbers of what people are actually running on their PCs, Linux is anywhere from less than 1% to less than 12%. Itis obvious what is going on here."

Yes, many are buying legitimate copies of Windows, but Ms. Jump said itis very apparent on the streets piracy in emerging markets is king.

The evidence: While the prices of all PC hardware components in the bill of materials have fallen, the price of an OS has stayed constant. That means that while PC desktop prices continue to fall, the OS average selling price has doubled since 1996. The Windows OS now accounts for 2% to 15% of the cost of a shipped PC. That said Ms. Jump is a huge motivator in software piracy in emerging markets.

"There is little legal enforcement of software copying in these areas," she said. "In addition, many people in these areas can afford a cheap PC, but canit afford to pay almost double for a copy of Windows to put on the PC. So they go to a local market and buy a pirated version of Windows for US$2.00. And if theyire not smart enough to install themselves, there are plenty of places that will do it for them for next to nothing, or they will turn to a friend."

Ms. Jump was not surprised by her results.

"Iim originally from Russia and I know about piracy and how easy people get access to it," she said. "Iive talked to vendors who ship PCs. For them, (taking) $20 off the cost of a machine is a hugh deal because that means somebody else who couldnit afford to buy a PC before can now."

For example, if a PC in an emerging market costs $300 and Windows costs $80, being able to cut the cost by over a quarter can make the difference between selling a PC and not, Ms. Jump said.

Ms. Jump believes that while Linux usage will grow over the next four years, itis primary area of usage will be in business and industry, not with consumers at home.

"The developer community has not embraced the development of Linux software applications for consumers," Ms. Jump commented. "There are some, but not many. Of what is available, their features and ease of use compared to Windows applications is nowhere near the same. This is a major negative for Linux acceptance. Consumers wonit consider Linux without good applications. The numbers prove this is not going to change dramatically between now and 2008."