Guest Post by Tom Carpenter, ASPE-IT Instructor
As I’ve worked with small businesses on tight budgets, I’ve noticed many are looking for alternatives to Microsoft’s products in the open source product space. Of course, this alternative market usually means using Linux-based solutions. The question I often ask my training students is this: Are you using Linux servers or clients and, if so, how? The vast majority of attendees are not using Linux at all in their organizations; however, those who are using it indicate that they have selected it as an alternative to Microsoft’s products.
In the year 2000, I predicted that within 10 years we would begin to see alternative operating systems eating into the Microsoft market share. Indeed, we are now seeing this. We see the Mac OS doubling its market share in the last decade (even though it still commands less than 10 percent of the computer market). We also see Linux distributions taking larger and larger shares of the market – particularly on the service side for database and web-based application hosting.
According to HitsLink.com, Linux operating systems command over 1 percent of the market and Mac OS now takes over 5 percent of the market in June of 2010. In December of the year 2007, the Linux operating systems were at about 0.6 percent and the Mac OS was at about 3.5 percent. The growth since that time is phenomenal. Microsoft Windows has lost 5 percent of its market share in just that brief window of time.
If you consider averages of several difference sources, the Mac OS holds about a 6 percent share and the Linux distributions hold about a 1.2 percent market share. All versions of Windows combines hold about a 90 percent market share – down from 96 percent just three years ago.
Because of these statistics, I think it’s time to more seriously explore the alternatives to Windows – certainly on the server side and possibly even for desktops. For example, should you launch that project converting all Access databases to SQL Server or should you consider MySQL instead? Should you deploy Windows 7 on the desktops for that kiosk project (self-running PCs for display in lobbies, libraries, etc.) or consider Ubuntu or another Linux distribution?
Many small businesses are taking the Linux alternative seriously, and many home users are bailing from years of Windows use to go with the Apple alternative. While I, personally, am not a fan of the Mac OS (I much prefer Windows 7 or Ubuntu Linux to the Mac OS), it is certainly a very easy OS for home users to learn and it is based on Unix now – so it’s architecture is better suited for use in large-scale deployments.
However, all of this should be considered in light of stagnation in Windows upgrades for about a six year window. Windows Vista did not take off at all; however, Windows 7 is taking off faster than any operating system since Windows 95 was released in 1995 – so only time will tell whether this trend will continue. Could 2020 be the year Microsoft falls below 50 percent market share for operating systems? We’ll see, but clearly IT professionals need to be more aware of the operating system alternatives, and this discussion hasn’t even explored the handheld market and the impact it will have on desktop/server operating systems in the next decade.
Tom Carpenter is an ASPE-IT Instructor who has developed courses on SQL Server, Windows 7, and Hyper-V. He also teaches Server 2008 and most of our other Microsoft product training.