Linux Enters the Mainstream

A few short years ago, Linux believers thought the free and open software system would topple the Microsoft Goliath like a modern-day David. That didn’t happen. But neither was Linux crushed underfoot.

October 12, 2005 – “A new tone of sobriety and caution has entered much of the industry analysis surrounding the Linux market,” says Steve Butler, Senior Analyst at eMarketer and author of the Linux: Usage and Trends report. “Industry observers have taken a more level-headed approach to analyzing its prospects and defining the surrounding opportunity, and it is now clear that Linux is here to stay.”

A sign of that acceptance is the the number of SMBs that expect to be running Linux. A survey by Evans Data found that more than 25% of SMBs expect to be running Linux on more than one-quarter of their servers by 2006.

Because of the nature of Linux, open-source software that is freely available on the Internet from many different Web sites, it is difficult to define the size of the market and project its growth. But eMarketer has aggregated publicly available data from a variety of firms that have looked at different aspects of the Linux opportunity to present a coherent picture.

Data from IDC are probably the most wide-ranging of the publicly available numbers, encompassing Linux-based servers, Linux-based PCs and sales of packaged software that runs on the Linux operating system. Data from Morgan Stanley focus on the Linux server market. Gartner figures target the desktop market, and, along with AMI-Partners and others, focus on adoption by small and medium-size businesses (SMBs).

IDC estimates that unit sales of Linux PCs will increase by a healthy 30% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2003 and 2008, while Linux server sales are forecast to climb by a 24% CAGR.

Using a narrower definition that only looks at sales of new servers running the Linux OS, Morgan Stanley found that there were a little more than 1 million Linux servers sold last year. For 2005, the investment bank predicts that worldwide sales will surpass 1.3 million units.

Gartner reported last year that Linux was being run on an installed base of 1.3% of all PC units worldwide. By 2008, Gartner expects that proportion to double to 2.6% of all PCs.

“There seems to be a growing consensus among industry observers that despite the free availability of Linux software, most businesses and governments will prefer to deploy commercial Linux – as a vendor-supported version from such companies as IBM or Red Hat – that comes with a maintenance and service agreement,” says Mr. Butler.

Find out more about the current state of various Linux developments and adoption, and what that means for SMB and large enterprise markets. Read eMarketer’s new Linux: Usage and Trends report today.

About eMarketer

By gathering the latest research and news from over 1,000 sources, eMarketer has established itself as the world’s leading provider of internet and e-business statistics. eMarketer’s Web site is at