I just reread the announcement of a partnership between IBM and RedHat in 1999 to promote GNU/Linux to the enterprise. Here’s a quote:
More than 10 million users currently run the Linux operating system. According to IDC Research, Linux was the fastest-growing server operating environment in 1998, capturing more than 17 percent of all server operating system shipments. A new survey in Linuxworld showed that 74 percent of those polled cite Red Hat as the most recognized Linux vendor.
What’s changed in that time is nothing and everything. Hardware and software have gone through several important changes but what has not changed is that annually GNU/Linux grew dramatically. We continue to hear of large roll-outs of GNU/Linux and the small ones, even neighbour helping neighbour continue.
It’s pretty easy to see that success on the web where Netcraft counts websites. GNU/Linux had about 3 million active servers then and 60% of active servers now. That’s 31% per annum growth. That leaves 7 million client machines or servers hidden from the web growing to about 140 million now.
The desktop is harder to see because IDC charges big bucks for that information but there has been no slowdown of migrations to GNU/Linux on the desktops although they may no longer be news-worthy or novel.
The same forces that have moved GNU/Linux ahead on the server have done so on the desktop. How can anyone claim that GNU/Linux has still a tiny share on the desktop? You don’t buy many servers at Walmart just as you don’t buy many GNU/Linux desktops but folks can still clone the software, install it for a friend, or roll out thousands on a weekend whether they are PCs or servers. The applications that most people use are available on GNU/Linux.