Thursday, May 14, 2015

UNIX looks like the most popular OS till date

A fascinating little point made in a much longer piece about the smartphone wars. One that makes me wonder whether Unix can now be considered to be the most successful operating system of all time. Which is certainly a change from when I first entered the computing industry when Unix boxes were vast behemoths and the Windows based PC was what was used by the masses.

The point is made here:

Within that, roughly 1.1bn had ‘smartphones’ at the end of 2012, of which around 900m ran either the iOS or Android versions of Unix. (As an aside, it is pretty striking that almost a fifth of the earth’s adult population has a Unix box in their pocket.)

Yes, it is true that both Apple‘s iOS (and OSX come to think of it) and Google‘s Android are variations of the basic Unix operating system. And 900 million concurrent users might indeed be the largest number of people using an operating system yet.

The only viable contender is of course Windows. DOS was never a large enough marketplace before Windows took over from that. And I agree that Windows sales numbers are, over time, much higher than of these Unix variants. Windows 7 for example sold 450 million copies all told. Windows 8 so far 100 million. So I’m willing to agree that Microsoft has, over all the generations of Windows, sold more licenses than the current usage of the two Unix variants, Android and iOS.

But I’m really not sure whether the installed base of Windows has ever been 900 million units. Not all operating at the same time. And we are indeed saying that the current, today’s installed base of Unix is that 900 million. Even if that were shown to be wrong, that there are, or have at some time been, more than 900 million operating PCs running Windows, I don’t think that Windows would keep the crown for very much longer. For the growth rates are wildly divergent.

Almost all tablets and smartphones now run some variant of Unix (yes, I know, Windows Phone and Surface but really, volumes here are pretty small) and those markets are still growing by leaps and bounds. And the PC market is actually shrinking. So even if Windows might, just, still be the world’s leading OS I don’t think that that will last for very much longer.

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