“Linux is free, nobody sells it – so there’s no market share!” Often I see this rebuttal in comment threads when someone calls for more market share for desktop Linux (yes, I read comment threads, I know it’s not healthy for me).
I want to briefly address here what is meant by “market share,” because Linux does have a market share in the world IT market, and it’s very significant; even servers running gratis Linux deployments are an integral part of that market share.
Rather than looking at market share as “how much Linux can we sell,” we need to look at it in terms of “how many Linux users are there on servers and desktops, and how can we sell software and services to them?”
“Market Share” does not mean “how much is sold” but “how much could be sold to.”
If we look at sales of Linux (ISO downloads, install contracts, etc), they are arguably one of the least interesting revenue figures around in the mainstream computing industry.
Canonical, publishers of Ubuntu, touted as the currently most pupolar Linux distro in existence, received $UBUNTUREVENUE as a result of public downloads, compared to $WIN10SALES for Windows 10 in 2015 and $OSXSALES for Mac OS X in the same year.
If however we look at the deployment of Linux, and how much software can be sold to Linux-centred shops, the numbers are very, very different.
On the desktop, the 2015 revenue for Linux games at Valve (the publishers of the Steam game distribution platform) is $VALVESUM – whilst not groundbreaking, it’s certrainly not to sniff at.
In terms of server Linux sales, for the distributions themselves, the sum of sales in 2015 for RedHat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Linux for Enterprises and Oracle Linux combined is $ESALE. Again, not groundbreaking, but still indicative of a healthy market.
In terms of services sold to Linux admins in companies of all sizes…. well I’m unable to quantify that. Consider these big players:
* Amazon AWS and associated services
* Microsoft Azure services
* Google’s Chromebooks and Chromeboxes (Gentoo-based)
* In hardware, Dell XPS, System76, Raspberry Pi (and other SoC boards such as Arduino, BeagleBone), Nest,
* Revenue for iX Systems, DigitalOcean, and a plethora of hosting providers and server builders such as HP, Dell, Toshiba, Samsung, et al
* On mobile the entire Android ecosystem
* For services: Ansible, Canonical Landscape, GitHub professional
* And on the desktop, DropBox, Skype, Google Docs,
All these are platforms, services and frameworks that are designed with either Linux servers or desktops in mind, which sell for MONEY and generate MONEY for these organisations.
The software may be free, but it’s in business guarantees and services that money is made.
To say there is no Market Share for Linux because “Linux is Free” is to say you can’t build a business around water or air because they occur naturally.
There is Linux Desktop market share, and it needs to grow: the more people who run Linux on the desktop, the easier it will be to demand Linux treatment from software publishers, and the easier it will be to push Free Software to users. And the easier it will be to get users out of locked-in situations.
We need the Linux Desktop Market Share to increase.
Make it rain.