Linux No Threat to Microsoft Dominance—Yet

IDC study shows Linux market share has grown at the expense of other operating environments.

A new study from research firm International Data Corp. (IDC) confirms that Linux has grown its market share at the expense of other operating environments.

The same study found, however, that Microsoft’s Windows operating platforms increased their market share over the same period. Moreover, cautions IDC, don’t expect Linux to pose a threat to Windows’ dominance any time soon: The research giant projects that Microsoft will hold on to its lead in the worldwide server market through 2007.

During 2002, Microsoft grew its share of the worldwide server operating environment license shipments by nearly five percent, from 50.5 percent in 2001 to 55.1 percent. Linux also grew its server license shipments, accounting for 23.1 percent of the worldwide market.

On the corporate desktop, where Microsoft has enjoyed a monopoly for years, the software giant nevertheless increased its share of worldwide client operating environment license shipments, from 93.2 percent in 2001 to 93.8 percent in 2002. Linux client licenses, on the other hand, accounted for 2.8 percent of the worldwide total.

Strong growth of Windows and Linux server and client shipments—combined Windows license shipments spiked by 12.4 percent during 2002, for example—helped to grow the overall operating systems and subsystems market by 4.3 percent, to $18.6 billion. License shipments for all other server operating environments declined over the same period, however, IDC found.

“Microsoft continues to defy the overall market trends, and has again pulled the market upward from both a unit shipment perspective and from a revenue perspective," said Al Gillen, research director for IDC’s System Software research, in a statement. “Linux was the only other bright spot in 2002, with that operating environment posting both revenue and shipment volume gains."

In an otherwise down year for IT spending, IDC says that overall paid unit shipment growth for server operating environments increased by 9.6 percent, while paid client operating environment shipments were up by 5.1 percent compared to 2001.

Vendors shipped 5.7 million new server licenses during 2002, which IDC says were split between Microsoft, Linux, combined Unix—which accounted for only 11.1 percent of the market, less than half that of Linux—and Netware, with 9.9 percent. Over the same period, vendors shipped 121 million client licenses, with Windows, Linux, and Mac OS revenues accounting for 99.5 percent of these.

Through 2007, IDC projects that Windows and Linux products will grow their annual shipment totals, and says that the worldwide market for client operating environments will expand over the same period at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.5 percent, while the server operating environment market will grow at a CAGR of 9.1 percent.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.