Again folks are trotting out the wrong numbers to describe the share of PCs running GNU/Linux. I found better numbers…

We have fairly good numbers on the actual adoption of Android. Google trends show the spike of searches for information about Android. Comparing Google’s Trends with several distros and Android gives a unsurprising result. Android is being taken up at several times the rate of GNU/Linux for all platforms. Tying the two together may give us real numbers about the rate of uptake of GNU/Linux. Roughly 25% of smart-phones are using Android. Production in the last year has been about 270 million. If Android has 25% of those, Android got 67 million. If GNU/Linux in distros is down a factor of 3, GNU/Linux (excluding Android) got 22 million additional systems. Android is new with just a year of major history. GNU/Linux has been around for many years so we can multiply 22 million by a large factor say 4 or 5 to estimate how many GNU/Linux converts/systems are out there and it is around 100 million, much nearer W3Schools number than NetApplications.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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9 Responses to Numbers

  1. oldman says:

    “If you took GNU/Linux and put an interpreter and a GUI on it it would still be GNU/Linux. That’s all a Java VM or Dalvik in this case is.”

    Frankly that fact that someone hacked a non standard (for this phone) set of packages onto Android is IMHO meaningless – Its still not Linux because it was never intended to RUN Linux applications!

    As far as I can tell, Android is an environment crafted specifically to encourage commercial closed source application development. IMHO 99% of its use will be by those who want a phone or a tablet.

    I guess this is going to be another of those agree to disagree moments in our conversation.

  2. Thanks for the update.

    “Wikimedia Traffic Analysis Report – Operating Systems
    Daily averages, based on sample period: 1 Oct 2010 – 16 Oct 2010”

    When I last checked there were only older numbers there.

    It’s interesting that while Ubuntu is clearly the leading distro, the others total to about the same amound. It pays to advertise/promote.

  3. Mats says:

    It’s propably true that there are almost 70 million Android-smartphones. But these devices are not so often internet connected than traditional computers. So if there are more clicks by Ubuntu than by Android, it doesn’t mean there are over 70 million Ubuntu-computers.

    Breakdown per OS version, non mobile:

    Linux 25,073 0.56%
    Linux Debian 3.0 1,192 0.03%
    Linux Fedora 3.5 752 0.02%
    Linux Fedora 3.6 1,108 0.02%
    Linux Gentoo 836 0.02%
    Linux SUSE 3.6 1,401 0.03%
    Linux Ubuntu 742 0.02%
    Linux Ubuntu 10.04 20,465 0.46%
    Linux Ubuntu 10.10 2,393 0.05%
    Linux Ubuntu 8.04 1,892 0.04%
    Linux Ubuntu 9.04 2,694 0.06%
    Linux Ubuntu 9.10 4,232 0.09%

    Breakdown per OS version, mobile

    Linux Android 1.5 1,433 0.03%
    Linux Android 1.6 3,063 0.07%
    Linux Android 2.1 7,470 0.17%
    Linux Android 2.2 8,780 0.20%

  4. @RAY:

    Correct. The installed base of smart-phones is huge, probably larger than the number of PCs. The point is that the uptake of Android is astronomical. Soon it will have major share in installed base. My point was that the searches for Linux or Android are often by people looking to adopt the technology and the hits for Android are just a few times larger than the hits for GNU/Linux distros. ie uptake of GNU/Linux while not as spectacular is quite large and has been so for years. Therefor the number of installed GNU/Linux systems must be well above 1%.

    Android is just the latest GNU/Linux distro to take off. It looks to be more popular than Ubuntu sooner or later.

  5. If you took GNU/Linux and put an interpreter and a GUI on it it would still be GNU/Linux. That’s all a Java VM or Dalvik in this case is. The apps are different being made for the VM but a lot of the drivers, kernel, utilities are the same.

    Here’s a guy running Debian on his smart-phone. He installs a couple of things from an SD-card and he is root.

    Debian is running as ARM native code, not Dalvik stuff.

    Here a guy installs Ubuntu on a phone. He has everything but X11 going. He uses VNC to communicate with the display.

  6. Ray says:

    But when we include Android, a primarily a mobile system, we must include other mobile os, such as iOS, webOS, symbian, and WP7. Once those OSes have been counted, you’ll see that Linux/Android market share haven’t risen as much.

  7. oldman says:

    “It’s still GNU/Linux.”

    I don’t see how being built with components of the code base of Linux makes it Linux. Can you run the standard Linux applications on top of it? I don’t think so.

    It seems to me that trying to extend the numbers of penetration by desktop Linux by claiming Android as Linux is a bit far fetched.

    But then again, I may be looking at it wrong.

  8. Android is dalvik running on top of GNU/Linux. The source code of all that is available. The sources of the applications may or may not be available. That’s not a problem. GNU/Linux can run non-free apps too. It’s still GNU/Linux.

    Still, I think we have a good handle on the rate of uptake of Android and Google Trends shows how that compares with the rate of uptake of GNU/Linux. Cumulatively, GNU/Linux is far above 1% globally. NetApplications has a strange universe.

  9. oldman says:


    My understanding is that Android is a platform for commercial software. its licenses allow for the distribution of closed source binary only applications that run on top of Android.

    This is not Linux, and I fail to see how one could even add in its percentages.

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