Operating System market share prediction

When I wrote One browser to rule them all, I also wanted to speculate a little in where the operating system market might be heading. Suffice to say, Vista hasn’t meet its expectations, and Mac OS X has gained a lot of attention through iPhone and iPod.

Current market shares

If you take a look at the current operating system statistics (more detailed breakdown), it basically looks like this:

  • Windows 90.6%
  • Mac OS X 7.8%
  • Linux 0.9%

Possible future market share prediction

It seems like more and more people get their eyes open for Mac OS X and Apple products in general, which is overall a good thing, I think; as long as we get some equilibrium, please. Just as with web browsers, what would be really good if we got two or three major players having about roughly the same market share.

And, to be honest, I think it could be a possibility, if Apple were to let OS X free!.

I also think Linux-based operating systems are gaining more and more popularity, especially when it becomes more targeted at regular users, most notably in the form of Ubuntu. My mom has been using Ubuntu for over a year now, and making the switch from Windows XP to Ubuntu was by far the best move I’ve done in my support-for-parent business. She has virtually had no problems since the change.


So, let’s start a little guessing-game of how the operating system market share will look like in two years:

  • Windows 75%
  • Mac OS X 22%
  • Linux 3%

(yes, all the numbers come from a very scientific calculation… 🙂 )

What’s your take, and wishes?


  • Stephen Hill says:

    I really don’t belive the market will change that much in two years, in fact I think it will stay the same:

    Windows 90.3%
    Mac OS X 8%
    Linux 1%

  • Siegfried says:

    Well, taking a look into the crystal says that Stephen Hill may be right 🙂

    what i whish is different. Although not simple. On one hand i'd like the idea of Linux getting a market share of over 90%. But you're right, better would be a roughly equal market share of several divverent operating systems. But then, there are not only Windows, MacOS and Linux. There is BSD, and there is Haiku (The BeOS successor). That would be 5 systems, which should be enough for some time. More systems would be nice, but i think more than 10-12 different systems would not be that good. At least not if they are not interoperable.

    Last: On the other hand, as long as Linux has such a low market share, using Linux is somewheat a security feature. Most exploits will try to exploit something from the mainstream. That's Windows. Using Linux so enhances security 🙂

  • Martin Odhelius says:

    I hope it will be

    * Windows 1%

    * Mac OS X 2%

    * Linux 95%

    * Others 2%

    that will possibly make me unemployed, but wtf 😉

  • jens persson says:

    I’d say that Linux would be a little higher perhaps 5% and it will be taken from OS X, since I think that some enterprises wont migrate to Vista, and when looking at the alternatives, will move to Linux instead of OS X. I think that its on the home computers people will move to OS X.

    So my breakdown is like this:

    Windows: 75%
    OS X: 20%
    Linux: 5%

  • Windows 50%

    Linux / *BSD 35%

    OS X 15%


    When big firms realize they can do office stuff, manage mails, surf and do presentations with linux it could go very fast. But sadly, I dont think there is any sight of that in reality.

    Macs are to expensive to efford for most regular people, as well at work as home.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Thanks guys!


    Maybe, to be realistic, Windows will continue to have a strong hold of the market for a foreseeable future.


    Absolutely, I was somewhat simplifying in regards to existing systems.


    Unemployed, or perhaps giving you a chance to work with things you really like! 🙂

    jens, Anders,

    Well, I think that if people let go of the mandatory Apple hardware for OS X, it could literally explode, in terms of gaining more users. Personally. I definitely regard it to be the most pleasing operating system out there.

  • Jim Davis says:

    Having spent 35 years in corporate America I can tell you with certainty that major corporations will not change their OS, even if they get it for free. The cost to deploy and support a new OS for large companies typically makes it impossible to ever see a payback for making the change.

    I believe the consumers will, for the most part, continue to follow the lead of their workplace. If MSFT goes out of business, or is split up by the government, then the door will open to someone else that will gain the majority market share. When/if that happens will the new King Of The Hill be able to avoid the same mistakes made by Microsoft?

  • Avan says:

    As long as most of the computer systems sellers ship windows preinstalled with their systems, this statistics won't change dramatically. Let's hope there's a Linux distro made as user-friendly as Mac OS X and Vista. Linux will gain more market share.

  • I agree with Avan, the only time that people are going to use more Apple and Linux powered computers is when more people buy them. Right now that’s next to impossible, at least as far as Linux is concerned. In New Zealand we don’t have a choice, all computers ship with Windows. I don’t want Windows, but I don’t get much of a choice. A few people sell computers without an Operating System, but those aren’t exactly targeted at “average” computer users. We must remember that the average computer user doesn’t know what to do when a program stops responding or the writing is too big/small on the screen. The average computer user, if they know that there is more than Windows available, is terrified of the idea of switching operating systems.

    Overseas there are a few companies shipping Linux now, and I think that’s great. I know that Windows has its place and I never want to see it completely die out but it’s great that people have at least a tiny bit of choice. Dell sells Linux PCs to SOHOs, although they don’t advertise them in NZ (even on the website). HP has and probably does sell Linux PCs also.

    Let’s hope there’s a Linux distro made as user-friendly as Mac OS X and Vista.
    … Actually there is:

    The only thing a Windows user couldn’t work out how to do out of the box was install Flash. Sure, there was a learning curve. Do you think that there is no learning curve for a Mac or Linux user moving to Windows? Of course there is! And for people who consider themselves computer literate, this is going to be a source of embarrassment which puts them off switching in either direction.

    In 2003, it was discovered that Linux was slightly less usable than Windows XP: http://www.zdnetasia.com/news/hardware/0,39042972,39144903,00.htm
    .. It’s worth noting that this was before the 2004 advent of Ubuntu, which reviewers such as this guy claim is every bit as easy to use as windows. There are many sites claiming that Ubuntu is easy to use – however unfortunately many of them are Linux-oriented, Canonical or sales-oriented sites (yes, you can make money selling free software – or at least putting a markup on the installation media).

    Note that one of the main selling points here for example is the ease of use.
    Some claim that Ubuntu is only good for newbies and that therefore 0nly l4m3rs us3 Ubuntu!!!1!!!!one. This is simply not true. If it were true then they wouldn’t be using it for Wikiedpia’s 350 servers, or on Google. Ease of use doesn’t make things any less powerful (if designed correctly).

    Another very easy to use distribution is Fedora. As long as you don’t want to listen to music encoded using patented formats (unfortunately most MP3s) or one of a couple of other select things, Fedora is very easy to use too.

    To really hurt Windows, Vista is not known for being pleasant or easy to use.

    And of course, Developing software for Mac OS X is much like developing software on Linux. If you choose the right libraries and use the right compiler, in fact, it is more or less exactly the same. Max OS X is a BSD variant. BSD and GNU/Linux are both POSIX-y, UNIX-like systems. They’re siblings – the strength of one is the strength of the other. By contrast, Windows has no siblings, is an orphan, and is not very interoperable. Internet Explorer is not available for modern Linux, Mac OS or Solaris systems! It was formerly available for HP/UX or whatever it was called, and Mac OS (IE Mac, a very different beast to IE Win)… We know that humans are resistant to change so what will happen? When users switch from Mac or Linux to Windows (rare maybe but it might happen sometimes), they’re going to keep using Firefox or Safari. Not so for ex-Windows users.

    Thanks to that horrible thing called iTunes,Apple is eating a lot of satellite markets. And, note that selling Apples is more profitable than the two leading brands of PCs put together. In fact, the PC manufacturer with the fourth largest market share can make a loss for a whole year — Macs are in a very good position!!

    I always hated Apples, but I had never tried OS X. Now advancements in Unixlike systems have turned Mac OS into BSD and made Linux a viable alternative for Windows. I think we could see *nix playing catch-up for the next ten years, and Mac OS will have an easy 40% (compare its popularity growth to that of Firefox) market share.

    @Jim Davis: I concur, I think that if Microsoft falls we will see a new corporate Monopoly. I think that that will probably be Apple. Can Ubuntu do it? Maybe… Maybe not, but maybe.
    In New Zealand (where I live), large companies and government departments do switch to Linux. Air New Zealand is powered by Linux – it wasn’t always!

    @Anders: No, Macs are cheaper than PCs. Sure, the list price tends to be higher, but you DO get more for your buck. G3 and G4 powermac computing claims, frankly, I think were rubbish…. But the newer systems are certainly not to be sniffed at.

  • Robert Nyman says:


    Thanks for your comments – both here and in other posts. 🙂

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