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Windows 7 helps Microsoft boost OS share to 78.6%

Gartner: Windows rises, but Linux and Mac fastest growing operating systems

By , Network World
April 27, 2011 12:23 PM ET

Network World - Microsoft's Windows accounted for 78.6% of worldwide operating system revenue in 2010, up nearly a full percentage point, despite growth in Linux servers and Mac desktops, according to Gartner.

Gartner's new analysis adds up the revenue for both server and desktop operating systems worldwide, comparing Microsoft to IBM, HP, Oracle, Red Hat and Apple.

VISUAL HISTORY: Windows after 25 years

Windows has long dominated the desktop market, but has had a tougher fight on the server side. Adding the two segments together shows Windows grabbing $23.8 billion in 2010 revenue, up from 2009 when Windows accounted for $21.9 billion and 77.9% of the market by revenue share.

IBM, maker of Unix and mainframe operating systems, came in second place in 2010 with $2.3 billion revenue and 7.5% market share. Although Red Hat, the top Linux vendor, accounted for only 2% of share and Apple's Mac OS 1.7%, Gartner said Linux servers and Mac desktops are on the rise.

"Linux (server) and Mac OS were the fastest-growing subsegments in the server and client OS segments, respectively, while Microsoft maintained its leading position in the overall OS market," Gartner said.

Microsoft growth was "driven by positive Windows 7 adoption and [the] PC refreshment cycle."

Windows desktops accounted for $17.7 billion of OS revenue, and 96.6% of worldwide desktop share, followed by Mac OS at 2.8% and Linux at 0.6%.

Counting by revenue, rather than unit share, seems to help Microsoft's cause. Usage tracker Net Applications gives Windows 89.6% of share by number of users, while StatCounter gives Windows 91.6% of users with the rest going mostly to Mac and Linux.

On the server side, Windows earned $6.2 billion in revenue, for just over 51% of the market. HP's Unix systems took in 8.6%, IBM's Unix 8.5%, Linux on the whole took 8.4% and IBM's mainframe, 7.8%.

The small cost of servers running open source Linux naturally results in a revenue share that is much lower than its unit share.

An ongoing survey of the top million websites by W3Techs gives Linux and other Unix-like systems 64.1% of Web server operating system unit share, compared to 35.9% for Windows and nearly zero for Mac OS. Numbers like these have led people like Linux Foundation chief Jim Zemlin to brag that Linux powers the majority of Internet traffic despite its small revenue share.

The overall operating system market grew 7.8% to 30.4 billion in revenue in 2010, according to Gartner, with desktop systems leading the way.

One category Gartner did not include in its analysis is the mobile operating system. Usage of Android and Apple's iOS still account for a small portion of total OS use, but it is growing quickly due to proliferation of smartphones and tablets.

Net Applications, which lumps desktop and mobile operating systems together, found that Apple's iOS rose from 0.81% to 1.87% in the past year, while Windows dropped from 91.3% to 89.6%.

Windows 7 seems to be on fire, selling 350 million licenses and becoming the fastest selling operating system in history, according to Microsoft. A PC World analysis, while not definitive, suggests that the 350 million licenses may actually be a step back for Microsoft, representing only about two-thirds of total PC sales, much lower than Microsoft's typical desktop share.

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