Linux, the veteran operating system that is over 30 years old, has achieved a new milestone in June 2023. According to one firm’s measurement, it reached 3.07 percent of the global desktop operating systems market share for the first time. While this is a remarkable feat for Linux, there are other ways to look at the data from Statcounter’s chart. You can either celebrate the year of the Linux desktop or dismiss it as a minor footnote—it’s up to you.
Five years ago, Linux had 1.69 percent of Statcounter’s June numbers. In the year from June 2022 to 2023, Linux slowly climbed from 2.42 to 3.07 percent, breaking the 3 percent barrier for the first time between May and June. If you consider Chrome OS as a Linux system, you could add that 4.13 percent and get to 7.2 percent.
While 3 percent might seem a little measly, this could change dramatically in the next decade, as Linux could become the most popular desktop operating system by 2030. How could this happen? Here are some of the key factors that could contribute to the rise of Linux desktop in the global market.
The problems with Windows 11
Windows 11, the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system that was released in October 2021, turned out to be a shock for many of its users. It introduced a new design, features, and requirements that were met with widespread criticism and backlash from users. One of the most controversial changes was the increased hardware requirements for Windows 11, such as TPM 2.0 and Secure Boot, that made many older or budget PCs incompatible with the new OS. This forced many users to either buy new PCs or stick with Windows 10, which is scheduled to end its support in 2025.
However, Windows 11 also had many bugs, glitches, and security issues that made it unstable and unreliable. It also removed or changed many features and functionalities that users liked or relied on. The added bloatware and ads that annoyed users and slowed down their PCs didn’t help either.
As a result, many users who are unhappy and frustrated with Windows 11 have started looking for alternatives. Some have switched to macOS, while others have switched to Linux, which offers them more choice, control, and performance. It also gives its users a sense of freedom and empowerment, as they can customize their system to their liking and contribute to its development and improvement.
The success of Valve’s Steam Deck
In February 2022, Steam Deck, a handheld gaming device powered by a Linux-based operating system developed by Valve, was launched and became an instant hit among gamers and critics alike. It provided a portable and powerful gaming experience that could run thousands of games from Steam’s library. The popularity and development of Linux gaming has got a boost from the Steam Deck, as more developers started to port their games to Linux or use cross-platform tools such as Proton or Wine. Additionally, the demand and supply of Linux-compatible hardware and peripherals, such as controllers, keyboards, mice, etc., has also increased as well.
Many non-gamers were also attracted to Steam Deck, as it was a versatile and affordable device that could do more than just gaming. They could use it as a mini PC that could run various applications and tasks on Linux desktop. Furthermore, Steam Deck inspired many users to explore the possibilities and potential of Linux desktop as a gaming platform.
Innovations on the Linux desktop
Linux is known for its customization, security, performance, and compatibility. But it has also improved and innovated in other areas such as functionality, usability, and diversity in recent years.
Universal package formats such as Snap and Flatpak are one of the innovations that Linux distributions have adopted. They allow developers to bundle their software with everything they need to run on any Linux system. Installing and updating software from various sources such as app stores, websites, or repositories is easy for users without worrying about compatibility issues or conflicts. For example, Spotify, Skype, or Visual Studio Code can be installed from Snap Store or Flathub with a few clicks.
Desktop environments are another innovation that Linux desktop has developed. They offer different looks and feels for users to choose from. Users interact with desktop environments as the graphical interfaces on the Linux desktop. Some of the popular ones are GNOME 40, KDE Plasma, Cinnamon, and Unity. Each of these desktop environments has its own design philosophy, features, and customization options. For example, GNOME 40 has a minimalist and modern design with a horizontal workflow and gestures. KDE Plasma has a rich and customizable design with a vertical workflow and widgets. Cinnamon is targeted at Windows users and provides familiarity.
Features and functionalities are another innovation that Linux has introduced. They make Linux desktop more user-friendly and competitive with other operating systems. Plug-and-play touch support, voice assistants, etc. are some of those. Plug-and-play touch support means that Linux PCs can automatically detect and configure touch devices such as tablets, laptops, or monitors without requiring any manual intervention or drivers. Voice assist means that the Linux can use speech recognition and natural language processing to perform tasks such as opening applications, searching the web, playing music etc. For example, Mycroft is an open source voice assistant that can run on Linux.
Linux also shows its creativity and diversity by making various flavors and variants of Linux desktop that suit different purposes and audiences. Some of these flavors and variants are:
- Ubuntu Studio: A distribution designed for multimedia production. It comes with a selection of applications and tools for creating editing and publishing multimedia content.
- Kali Linux: A distribution designed for security testing, penetration testing and ethical hacking. It comes with a collection of applications and tools for testing analyzing and exploiting vulnerabilities in systems networks or applications.
- Tails: A distribution designed for privacy, anonymity and online security etc. It comes with a collection of applications and tools for encrypting data communicating securely browsing anonymously etc.
- Raspberry Pi OS: A distribution designed for Raspberry Pi devices such as mini computers IoT devices etc. It comes with a collection of applications and tools for learning programming tinkering etc.
Since its inception in 1991 as a hobby project, Linux desktop has evolved into a mature and versatile operating system that can rival Windows or macOS in many aspects. It has also become more popular and recognized in recent years, thanks to various factors that attract users. At PerceptivX, there is a belief that Linux desktop share has reached a tipping point. By 2030, Linux could achieve a historic milestone for the open-source community and become the most widely used desktop operating system in the world, surpassing Windows or macOS in global market share. This could also spark innovation and change in the desktop computing industry, as Linux could challenge the established norms and offer new possibilities and opportunities for users and developers alike.
*Statcounter gets its data from tracking code on more than 1.5 million websites around the world, which generate about 5 billion page views every month. Statcounter says it does not change or adjust its data in any way, except for removing bots and Google Chrome’s prerendering. It counts laptops as “desktop” because there is no easy way to tell them apart. And it can change its data up to 45 days after it publishes it.