What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Linux Market Shares
Created by: MBA Online

Clearly, Linux forms a good basis for IT, judging from the percentage shares in tablets and mobile IT in general. What’s wrong is that 0.79% share for “desktop”. That’s the nonsense spouted by M$ technological evangelists who will proclaim that GNU/Linux will never make it on the desktop for a plethora of “reasons”. These fail to notice that GNU/Linux does make it on the desktop around the world in particular markets, like the BRIC countries. All of the “reasons” vanish when monopolistic control of retail shelves and OEMS is weak. The reasons GNU/Linux makes it on the desktop are many:

  • the four freedoms work for real people,
  • because GNU/Linux is Free Software it may be freely copied, lowering the cost of acquisition for everyone,
  • there are millions of developers of FLOSS working cooperatively around the world to deliver software the world needs,
  • the four freedoms also ensure the software is flexible and can be used for optimal benefit to users, not restricted by the marketing plans of a business,
  • the low cost of acquisition is a huge advantage for the poor, students and young people who are not rich,
  • the low cost of acquisition keeps the bulk of expenditures for supply and distribution in the local economy, where the software is actually used, maximizing benefits of the activity,
  • the software works on ARM just as well as it works on old and new computers of all kinds, and
  • the software works faster and more reliably because the only objective for its existence is to run, not to lock-in users to some corporation’s plan for world domination.

My own use of GNU/Linux demonstrates most of these advantages. In remote northern communities of Canada, I have taken existing IT which is often older and running obsolete non-free software with hundreds of malware infections and made it run like a Swiss watch. Further, because there is no budget item for licensing, whatever money is available can be used to buy additional hardware rather than sending money to M$. Typically this means free donated hardware gets to run modern software in schools for $0. Computers for Schools does distribute free computers with XP but it was obsolete when it was released, picks up malware and runs much slower than GNU/Linux on the same hardware. Combine that with the flexibility to allow students legally to install GNU/Linux for no cost and a vibrant implementation of the IT curriculum exists with no restriction of non-free licensing. It’s a match made in heaven. A school that can afford very little money for IT can have servers, databases, social web sites etc. running in-house for $0 and students get to learn everything about clients and servers, hardware and software.

see 2008 – Deploying KDE to 52 million young people

see 2011 – Ubuntu Linux boosted by 10,000 seat PC win

The number of users of the Internet is expected to double in the next few years in the BRIC countries and Indonesia. They are fine with GNU/Linux on desktops and Android/Linux on smart thingies.

The difference between USA and Canada and much of the world is that retailers enjoy putting GNU/Linux on shelves in much of the world while M$ has trained retailers in USA and Canada like salivating dogs to push only M$’s junk. Not so with Android/Linux which is doing very well, judging by my last trip to Walmart.

IGEL, a maker of thin clients and software for thin clients has had 300% per annum growth in its “Universal Desktop” product, which while not free of charge, includes the Linux kernel and various software to convert any PC into a thin client. Tell IGEL that GNU/Linux isn’t making it.

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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19 Responses to What’s Wrong With This Picture?

  1. Yonah says:

    As an expatriate myself, I’m always interested in the observations of my peers, but I still don’t think you’re looking deep enough. I’m more interested in what another person in Thailand reported:


    A few choice quotes:

    “Many manufactured systems are shipped with Linux as a test system, with the expectations that the OS will be replaced before delivery to the customer.”

    “The main PC users are gamers. An internet shop is a game shop. At any one time, nationwide, probably 50% of active PC users are gamers. The games are *not* Linux. And the gamers are the base of future users. Until Linux is able to win over gamers, Linux will have a tenuous foothold in the future.”

    “The Nation (newspaper) runs a weekly feature on Linux, eg, a hospital moving to Linux, bootstrapping off public domain and using in-house programmers, the whole project completed for $250,000. *But* this type of support is seen as stodgy. If a corporation wants to be seen as cool and leading edge, it uses MS – almost opposite of the US.”

    Pretty close to the situation in China. You won’t find Linux in the net bars. Oh…. and never forget about porn. “No porn in China,” you say, “it’s illegal!” Chinese people would never (officially) indulge is such immoral behavior. Makes a great headline, doesn’t it? Meanwhile, there are thousands of porn sites here. Nearly all of them require downloading some P2P video player. Linux version? As the Chinese would say, “Mei you” (no have).

    So, you tell me, “(many users) will not have any Windows only must have programs”. I beg to differ. It seems to me you don’t really what those “many users” really use, want, or need. A problem I commonly see with people who are in a minority group. As I have found in China, what you see on the surface, while interesting, is rarely enough to make an accurate conclusion. There’s a lot more going on. A lot more.

  2. Contrarian says:

    “You claimed Wikipedia had a much smaller number”

    Note the “non-mobile” at 8.4% and the “mobile” at 91.6%. Add up all the Linux pieces in each. You do not have 2.98% for non-mobile Linux. Less than half of that.

    I think that it is kind of interesting as well to note that less than 20% of the traffic in mobile OS is Android, in spite of the hubbub you raise about its roaring success. Further, the entirety of the mobile access is only 8% in spite of the near parity of the phone population with the PC population, showing that PCs are used much more than you suggest and people use phones to mostly make calls.

  3. Wikipedia.org is not a geek site:

    Wikipedia is an editable database of human knowledge. It is eclectic, not geeky. It is no more geeky than an encyclopaedia or a dictionary.

    You claimed Wikipedia had a much smaller number. Did you pull it out of your …?

  4. oe says:

    “One of the main reasons you don’t see Linux desktops on retail shelves is because the stores know that they can’t upsell as much with Linux machines. Since Linux doesn’t need anti-virus software, registry cleaners, regularly scheduled PC tune-ups, etc., they would lose a lot of their potential revenue if they sold someone a Linux PC. I’ve had a manager tell me this flat out…”

    Sounds like the same racket that occurs at car lots where they push the undercoating and options….

  5. Contrarian says:

    “GNU/Linux 2.98% and Android/Linux 1.4%”

    Ignoring the ignominity of having to claim 3% as a success/victory of sorts, you are misreading your own cite. Non-mobile Linux, presumably the “GNU/Linux” you reference is but half of the total you claim. Painstaking addition of the bits and pieces comes to 1.44% for all non-mobile Linux combined. Mobil Linux, if that is what Android can be classed as being, is the balance, save for a final 0.02% classes as “Linux” without the Android qualifier.

    Again the stats come from a sort of geek site that is not a very likely destination for the average web surfer. So a slight preference for Linux among the gear headed ones is not much of an indicator of Linux becoming popular. If it had a chance at all, it should be a standout choice among the sort of folk who would take interest in Wikimedia pages.

  6. Nope.

    GNU/Linux 2.98% and Android/Linux 1.4%

  7. Contrarian says:

    Oh, they are all under Microsoft’s thumb, #ray, and all the FOSSers are aware of that. As soon as anyone publishes a statistic, they are contacted by Microsoft and made to conform.

  8. Ray says:

    I don’t know, many stats peg “desktop” Linux at around 1-2%, even Wikimedia.

  9. Good points. It certainly would help if there were a large company or, better, a bunch of them promoting GNU/Linux on the desktop. IBM does a fine job for large businesses but they don’t reach the vast majority of PCs on the planet because they sold that business to Lenovo. Lenovo does promote GNU/Linux outside USA. HP promoted GNU/Linux also to large businesses as does Dell but most of the big OEMs do little globally. Canonical is growing the business. They have made inroads with some OEMs and eventually they will get there but it takes time. I am concerned Canonical is not doing much on ARM. Native code is faster than Dalvik. They could sell performance, perhaps.

    Governments, on the other hand, have promoted GNU/Linux. Brazil, Russia, India, China and Malaysia have taken steps nationally to promote GNU/Linux on the desktop. Small entrepreneurs have also done a good job, particularly in emerging economies. They take parts and build systems or buy white boxes and install GNU/Linux on them. Unfortunately many still crank out illegal copies of that other OS, providing M$ with free advertising… I would bet that M$’s advertising budget plus that free advertising dwarfs what GNU/Linux relies on. Canonical is trying to overcome that by making contact directly with OEMs. That’s a good thing.

    GNU/Linux is not only thriving in BRIC countries but they are a large identifiable population that have choice. The stronger they become the more GNU/Linux will grow. Even in my own country the government is waking up to FLOSS. They even asked us what to do about it. I told them to make FLOSS the default unless there was some clear reason GNU/Linux could not serve. IMHO GNU/Linux would allow them to do anything and they could hire programmers to make up any apps they lacked. Provincial and local governmental organizations like schools are more open to GNU/Linux. They do look at the bottom line. Schools using GNU/Linux are the biggest promoters here in Canada. I have done a little there but only have reached a few thousand students.

  10. Will says:

    One of the main reasons you don’t see Linux desktops on retail shelves is because the stores know that they can’t upsell as much with Linux machines. Since Linux doesn’t need anti-virus software, registry cleaners, regularly scheduled PC tune-ups, etc., they would lose a lot of their potential revenue if they sold someone a Linux PC. I’ve had a manager tell me this flat out. Remember, these are the same kind of stores that will send a sales person out to spend 20 minutes trying to convince you that the $80 HDMI cable is better than the $20 one. And heaven forbid that the consumer realise that they can get a perfectly good HDMI cable for < $5 shipped online. These stores will happily equip their "Nerd Squad" with Linux live CDs/USBs for use in performing backups, diagnostics, etc. on consumers' Windows PCs in the backroom, but they simply don't want the consumer to be able to buy Linux PCs from them and deprive them of their all that extra money they make just from trying to keep Windows operational.

    It isn't quite the same with smart "thingies", since any upsell potential on them is about the same whether it's an iPhone, Android phone, or Windows 7 phone that goes out the door. The phones and tablets don't really need an anti-virus program, etc., and the ones that actually sell probably aren't going to be needing regularly scheduled tune-ups either. They make money on them by convincing customers to upgrade models early and often.

  11. istok says:

    … what’s wrong is that the champion of desktop linux is that joke of a private company from some british channel island that, professionally, cannot tell its ass from its elbow, forever immersed in coloring wallpapers and resizing icons. while on server and mobile fronts, linux is driven by giants like red hat and google.

    that’s what’s wrong.

    also, we talk about microsoft’s monopoly so much but what does that say about the countries that tolerate it? why never extend that criticism to point out to the fake rule of law in these supposedly democratic countries?

    besides, microsoft is inept and impotent at this point in time. it’s not microsoft’s fault that, for instance, there is no drive and initiative in the desktop linux world to use the crisis and lobby with governments eager to slash spending to adopt their almost-free product.

    btw, nevermind BRIC. what about BRICS?

  12. Bob Parker says:

    @Yonah. I don’t doubt that the boxes on offer are what sells. Tesco is in business to make money not for idealogical reasons. Widows 7 Ulimate Edition is on sale in Chiang Mai for about $3, please wait 20 minutes while we burn it. So yes some of those boxes will end up with $3 Windows on it. A couple of years ago the non-win boxes had freedos on them so were obviously intended for the $3 Windows set. Today is different, many users, net surfers, office users etc, will not have any Windows only must have programs so a proportion of these Linux boxes will stick.

  13. Yonah says:

    Bob, that’s not giving us the whole picture. What are people using in their homes or offices? What percentage of customers who purchase the machines you saw actually choose the Linux over Windows? How easy is it to buy pirated copies of Windows?

  14. Thanks for the report. The emerging markets for IT have a huge advantage, no lock-in because they are acquiring IT for the first time in many cases. That gives folks choice.

  15. The users you write of do not see Debian GNU/Linux on retail shelves.

  16. twitter says:

    Contrarian is right about one thing, all of the statistics probably under count free software. If Pogson touted the same Microsoft line seen in the corporate funded media, Contrarian would not be here with his silly arguments. Steve Ballmer himself pegged gnu/linux desktop use as greater than OSX a few years ago. Things have only gotten better for free software since then.

  17. JairJy says:

    The reason GNU/Linux doesn’t makes it on the desktop are one:

    -Linux isn’t user friendly.

    That’s why users will pay for a Mac instead of using Debian.

  18. Bob Parker says:

    Today I had a good look at the laptops/netbooks on sale at Lotus Tesco, Hang Dong Store in Chiang Mai Thailand. There were 18 of them running. Of the 18 just 2 offered Windows. No doubt some will claim that this is a 3rd world country. Well as an Australian I can promise that this 3rd world country is 10 years ahead of Australia in internet technology. My friends here from the USA also state that the internet here is better than there. I don’t doubt that Linux has < 1% penetration in some population or another. Possibly the prison population would be good for Microsoft's agents to test.

  19. Contrarian says:

    What’s Wrong With This Picture?

    Why it doesn’t agree with everything that I hope is true says pogson. The part I like is surely true, but the part I do not is a fabrication of the evil Microsoft Corporation that is forced upon each and every publisher of market data via some nefarious mechanism that I cannot identify, but which must exist, else why would everyone publish the same lie?

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