Microsoft continues to dominate the desktop operating system market, but Linux and Apple are enjoying rapid growth, according to researcher IDC.
Unit shipments of Linux client operating environments doubled to four million last year, representing four per cent of an overall market which showed growth of $1.53bn. IDC believes the open source platform will continue to make inroads into the market, but not enough to significantly alter market segmentation.
The main hurdles that Linux will need to overcome in the desktop market are speed and the lack of enough applications that are also fully compatible with Microsoft Windows software, said IDC analyst Al Gillen.
Apple, which is hosting its Macworld trade show in New York this week, enjoyed a 27 per cent growth in shipments of Mac OS during 1999, increasing sales by 1.1 million compared with the previous year. This represents five per cent of the desktop operating system market. Although total unit shipments of Mac OS rose to 4.9 million in 1999, this is a drop in the ocean compared with the combined 87 million unit shipments of Windows 95, 98 and NT Workstation.
Gillen said Apple is bouncing back from the mid-1990s, when its operating system failed to keep up with changes in the industry, and that much of the resurgence is down to the popularity of the iMac. "Apple is regaining the confidence of traditional users in the graphic arts and design industries. But Apple probably won't be able to make up all the ground it lost in the past decade," he said.
One problem for the company is the delay of its next-generation Mac OS X operating system which will not ship until early next year, although a beta version is expected to be launched at Macworld. Mac OS X is expected to address the technical problems of previous releases, such as isolating applications so that if one goes down it will not affect any other software being run, but because of the significance of these changes, users will have to upgrade all their Mac software, said Gillen.
However, despite the enthusiasm surrounding Linux and Apple, Microsoft maintained its dominance of the market. At $1.6bn, last year's revenue increase for NT Workstation alone outstripped overall market growth.
By 2004, NT Workstation and Windows 2000 Professional will account for around 85 per cent of the client market, while residual Windows 9x products will represent much of the remainder, leaving little room for competitive offerings, said Gillen.
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