The True Market Shares of Windows vs. Linux Compared
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What’s the most-used operating system in the world? Easy question, right? It’s obviously Windows.

But the answer might not be quite so straightforward. Sure, Windows dominates the home computer sector, but Linux powers far more of the world’s technology than you probably realize.

In fact, if it were possible to analyze every single piece of technology out there, Linux would almost certainly come out on top.

Sadly, such an analysis will never be feasible. But that won’t stop us digging down into some facts and figures. Here’s why Linux’s true market share is bigger than you think.

Desktops and Laptops

Let’s start with the equipment that we all use every day: desktop and laptop computers.

According to web statistics company NetMarketShare, Windows boasts an entirely unassailable 88.7 percent of the market share. StatCounter puts the number slightly lower at 82.6 percent.

Chromebook, Linux, Windows

Windows’ dominance is down to the popularity of two releases: Windows 10 and Windows 7. NetMarketShare puts Windows 7 at 44 percent and Windows 10 at 29 percent. StatCounter scores it as 41 and 45 percent, respectively.

In contrast, Linux is struggling along with around two percent of the market. Ubuntu is almost certainly the most popular distro, but precise statistics are impossible to find.

So, if Linux is so far behind Windows Windows vs. Linux: Here's What They Have in Common Windows vs. Linux: Here's What They Have in Common Instead of nitpicking how Linux has this or Windows lacks that, perhaps we should celebrate that both operating systems are robust, effective, and feature complete. Let's see what exactly they have in common. Read More , how can it possibly claim to be the most popular operating system in the world? Let’s take a closer look.

Chromebooks

Chromebooks have been making remarkable gains in the education sector 5 Reasons Every Student Should Be Using a Chromebook 5 Reasons Every Student Should Be Using a Chromebook Looking for a new computer for your college work? Forget a new Mac and disregard Windows. What you need is a Chromebook -- here are five reasons why. Read More . In the US K-12 sector, the devices enjoyed a 58 percent share of the market in 2016. With 17 percent growth in 2017 and a predicted 10 percent growth in 2018, one can safely assume the market share today is nearer 70 percent.

Perhaps most impressively, Chromebooks are posting growth figures in an era of declining laptop sales 4 Reasons Why You Don't Need a Laptop Anymore 4 Reasons Why You Don't Need a Laptop Anymore The era of laptops may be coming to an end. In fact, there are several reasons why laptops are now sub-optimal purchases. Here's what you need to know! Read More . The total sales remain a fraction of the total PC market, but the future looks encouraging.

Web Servers

Chromebook, Linux, Windows
Image Credit: Sashkin7/Depositphotos

In what will prove to be a reoccurring theme throughout this article, exact figures are not readily forthcoming.

However, according to W3Cook, Linux powers the servers that run 96.5 percent of the top one million domains in the world (as ranked by Alexa).

W3Techs goes even further down the list and claims Linux powers around 70 percent of the top 10 million Alexa domains. Windows controls the remaining 30 percent.

Public Cloud

The public cloud—which is closely tied to the aforementioned web servers—is another area where Linux has pulled well ahead of the chasing pack.

Given the fragmented nature of the space, it’s almost impossible to put your hands on definitive statistics. However, given Amazon EC2 controls nearly half of the market, it’s a good proxy for the entire sector. It’s especially true considering Microsoft has allowed Linux to be installed on its Azure cloud service since 2012.

On Amazon EC2, standard Linux (along with its various distros) controls 92 percent of the market. It boasts more than 350,000 individual instances. Again, Windows is responsible for the other eight percent.

Android

Before we dive into the stats, let us preface this section by saying that arguments about whether Android can truly be considered a Linux system have raged for years. The debate shows no sign of reaching a definitive conclusion.

The controversy arises because there’s not a universally-accepted definition of what Linux refers to. It could be a reference to a Linux kernel, a distro, or even a GNU operating system.

Android uses a Linux kernel The Linux Kernel: An Explanation In Layman's Terms The Linux Kernel: An Explanation In Layman's Terms There is only one de facto thing that Linux distributions have in common: the Linux kernel. But while it's often talked about, a lot of people don't really know exactly what it does. Read More , but has extra libraries, a GUI, and some proprietary code. You can draw your own conclusions. I view the Android OS as a subset of the wider Linux world; therefore, I think it’s fair to include it on this list.

So, what about the stats? Well, Android is comfortably the most popular mobile operating system in the world.

As of March 2018, both NetMarketShare and StatCounter agree that it controls around 70 percent of the combined smartphone and tablet market. Second is iOS with approximately 24 percent. Windows is a distant third with less than one percent.

There are an estimated 2.5 billion smartphones in the world, so we can safely assume Android is running on roughly 1.75 billion handsets. For comparison, Windows is running on an estimated 1.5 billion home computers.

Supercomputers

Linux utterly dominates the list of the top 500 most powerful supercomputers in the world What Is a Supercomputer? The Top 10 Supercomputers in the World What Is a Supercomputer? The Top 10 Supercomputers in the World Supercomputers are capable of quadrillions of operations per second. But what, exactly, is a supercomputer? Read on to learn why they're important, and how they'll change in the future. Read More . In June 2017, 498 of the top 500 were running Linux. The only two non-Linux machines were running the Unix-based AIX.

By the end of the same year, the two AIX machines had dropped off the list. At the time of writing, Linux now powers all 500 computers on the list.

In case you’re curious, the fastest supercomputer in the world is currently the Sunway TaihuLight in China. It has 10,649,600 cores and can perform 93 petaflops per second. It’s almost three times as fast as the second-placed supercomputer, also in China. The Swiss-built Piz Daint rounds out the top three.

And the Rest…

Chromebook, Linux, Windows

Linux isn’t just common on laptops, mobiles, and servers. You can find it in consumer products as diverse as Amazon Kindle e-readers, smart TVs, Nest thermostats, drones, and Tesla cars.

Governments have also been adopting the OS in record numbers. The French National Gendarmerie uses its own internal distro, as does the Russian military, and the Spanish education state education system. It even forms the basis of the North Korean state-run operating system, Red Star OS.

It’s also the operating system of choice for the Hollywood movie industry. 1997’s Titanic was the first blockbuster produced on Linux; today, almost every box office hit uses the technology.

And, perhaps most incredibly, Linux has powered space missions. SpaceX uses it for the Falcon 9 rockets.

So, What Is Linux’s Market Share?

It’s impossible to say. There are just too many variations across too many pieces of technology to be able to accurately deduce any top-level figures.

However, we can absolutely say that Linux is not a small-time operating system that’s only suitable for geeks, as people often accuse it of being.

If you’d like to join the growing crowd of Linux users, check out our guide to the best Linux distros and apps The 10 Most Popular Linux Apps and Distros in 2018 The 10 Most Popular Linux Apps and Distros in 2018 Not sure which Linux operating systems and apps to use? We've rounded up some of the most popular Linux apps and distros to keep an eye on in 2018. Read More .

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  1. handy rusandi berbagi73
    September 30, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    windows always update by day, week

  2. Israeli guy
    June 25, 2018 at 8:25 am

    My grandparents were ruining their computer every 6 months (more or less).
    After that I needed to format, reinstall and wait for another 5-7 months. One day I had no more patience and after format installed Ubuntu. Put on desctop Chromium and called it "Internet", downloaded Skype and that's all. I said that I installed new version of Windows that called Ubuntu, and it will work for a long time. This was the last time I needed to support that PC. It works successfully for 5 years till today and will work most probably , until we upgrade the hardware for them... No viruses and antiviruses, no problems, even a bit faster. So I did my choice - LUNUX!!!

    • Undertaker
      November 12, 2018 at 10:46 am

      Yeah, that's the typical story. I also got fed up with being a Windows support. Ubuntu just works for my parents.

  3. Ennai
    April 29, 2018 at 2:31 am

    So... Linux wins everywhere except PC. Windows loses everywhere except PC. Good to know.

  4. CommandLineHero
    March 29, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    OS Market share is Desktop (and laptop) specific. Not servers, TVs, phones, etc. That is why Linux is so small. I mean yes, if you look at every device on the planet, Linux is the king, but not on the desktop where it counts (which is why companies develop primarily for Windows and some for Mac). Hence why tripe-A game titles, and most software has to have workarounds for Linux use.
    Linux user wants product -> Company that makes said product sees virtually no market share and assumes no one will buy/use it and thus not make a profit. Rinse and repeat.

    • Israeli guy
      June 25, 2018 at 8:27 am

      hmmm, Sketch for example couldn't be found for WIN, only for Mac..

  5. Peter van Dijk
    March 28, 2018 at 1:59 pm

    "In fact, if it were possible to analyze every single piece of technology out there, Linux would almost certainly come out on top."
    On each of those Linuxes, and Windows installation, and Apple devices, etc, you will find several instances of SQLite, beating Linux by an order of magnitude.

    • dragonmouth
      March 28, 2018 at 5:51 pm

      Read the first line of the article again. SQLlite is an application, not an O/S.

      • Peter van Dijk
        March 29, 2018 at 8:46 am

        But that paragraph talks about "every single piece of technology" which is wider than just Operating Systems.

        • Heimen Stoffels
          March 29, 2018 at 4:05 pm

          I'm pretty sure he's talking about hardware technology. So if you count all hardware technology and what runs on it, then Linux will come out on top.

  6. Rainfactor
    March 28, 2018 at 2:50 am

    Is this some kind of apology after that biased half assed piece you wrote on why Windows is so much superior compared to Linux or you have had an epiphany? ??
    You should try Linux sometimes Dan, it is like people say, FUN to use !! ?