Year of Linux on the desktop creeps closer as market share rises a little

25% increase in seven months… But it depends how you count it

Statcounter says Linux's share of the desktop moved up from three percent last July to four percent in February, which on the face of it is pretty good.

The desktop OS market share data is pointing in the right direction for Linux: for February 2024, Statcounter recorded Linux at 4.03 percent, up from 3.08 percent last July. All right, true, it's not a big number, but the rate of change is impressive. After so many years of numbers being little more than a rounding error, adding a quarter more users in just over half a year is pretty good.

We wrote about these figures in July last year, pointing out that for Linux they didn't include ChromeOS. At that time, Statcounter's estimates for the Google distro were 4.15 percent. In other words, it was doing rather better than Linux itself, and factoring in Google's share nearly doubled the market share.

That seems to have changed now: ChromeOS is down to 2.27 percent – but then, the Reg has been reporting for a while that ChromeBook sales have been sagging since the end of worldwide pandemic restrictions. If we combine the numbers as we did last time, the decline in ChromeOS means that the total for both is now about 6.3 percent: in real terms, a drop. It's possible that some people are switching away from ChromeBooks to more conventional Linux distros – which sounds good overall.

Even though Windows 10 is heading for the exit, Windows 11 is not proving popular. It's not just needing a TPM 2 chip: even if you bypass that, it wants newer-model CPUs. We'd love to believe that people were trying out Mint, Ubuntu or Fedora to replace Windows.

Some people have turned to fondleslabs in preference to full-function PCs. Tablet computers do, after all, need a lot less maintenance. The PC market shrank for almost two years until growing 0.3 percent in Q4 and smartphone sales have limped along. Apple is doing particularly well, although we at the FOSS desk feel duty-bound to point out that everything that doesn't come out of Cupertino runs Linux… which means about three out of four devices.

What this really means is that if we widen the remit to include Android as well as ChromeOS and all the other distros, then Linux is doing just great, thanks. It's by far the dominant OS for most user-facing computing devices, with some three-quarters of the market, much as it does in server OSes, too.

We suspect that, sooner or later, someone will hit a magic combination of some near-bulletproof immutable OS and transactional packaging system that makes Linux conclusively easier than any Microsoft offering, even for your grandparents. Don't worry, though: the fundamentalist penguinisti will still claim that it doesn't count somehow. ®

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