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NewsForge: Counting Desktop Linux Users is Impossible

Sep 19, 2002, 23:30 (20 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Robin Miller)

"IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky is one of the world's most quoted individuals when it comes to counting computer operating system use, especially Linux. But when you come right down to it, he's no more certain than anyone else just how many people use Linux as a desktop operating system.

"Not long ago, Dan was quoted in an International Herald Tribune article as saying, 'Linux had a 3.9 percent share of desktops worldwide, outpacing Macintosh's 3.1 percent.' It turns out that this was a preliminary figure that didn't make it into the final IDC report on Linux use, and that after making some adjustments based on more research into Asian markets, Dan now believes the desktop Linux market share is more like 1.7%, which is still up significantly from last year's IDC count...

"The big 'but' is that, according to Dan, the 1.7% figure accounts for 'paid shipments only,' which Dan readily admits may only include a small fraction of all desktop Linux installations. To begin with, he says IDC's research shows that for every 10 copies of Linux sold, approximately eight copies are downloaded from the Internet for free, and that there may be something like 15 copies made, on average, from each downloaded or purchased copy. Not only that, Dan says he personally knows a corporate IT manager who made not just 10 or 20, but 6,000 (yes, that's six thousand) copies from a single set of downloaded Linux CDs. Dan doesn't know how many of those copies went on servers and how many went on desktop machines, but either way, it doesn't take many corporate IT people installing a few thousand homemade copies of their favorite Linux distro to throw all the numbers out of whack..."

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