Linux and Mac OS are the fastest-growing operating systems

Windows still dominates, but alternatives are gaining ground on both clients and servers

Microsoft may still dominate the operating system market, but Linux and Apple's Mac OS platforms were the fastest-growing in 2010, according to new data from Gartner.

Worldwide operating system revenue totaled $30.4 billion in 2010, Gartner reported Wednesday, representing an increase of 7.8 percent from 2009. Within that overall market, Microsoft still claims the leading position, with a 78.6 percent market share.

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What's particularly interesting, though, is the rapid growth being shown by both Linux and Macs in the server and client operating system segments, respectively.

On the client side, for instance -- which as a whole grew 9.3 percent in 2010 -- Mac OS was the fastest-growing subsegment in 2010, even though Windows was still the largest client OS player. Apple's platform grew 15.8 percent to $520 million in 2010, fueled by what Gartner reports were strong sales of Mac desktops and laptops.

Microsoft's Windows client business, by comparison, grew by only 9.2 percent.

"Apple's making of Mac OS as a 'cool' client computing OS has attracted a group of loyal customers on Mac devices and platforms," Gartner explained. "Apple's continuous innovations in mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, have prompted sales of other Apple devices and will continue to drive Mac sales."

Red Hat's reign

On the server side, meanwhile--which grew 5.7 percent last year--the open source Linux operating system was the fastest-growing subsegment in 2010 as end users adopted more open-standard systems, Gartner reported.

Red Hat, in particular, has dominated the commercial Linux server market. Revenue from Red Hat Enterprise Linux server licenses went up 18.6 percent to $592 million in 2010, in fact, taking a 58.2 percent share of the Linux server market.

Microsoft's Windows server business, by contrast, grew by only 7.5 percent in 2010.

Also claiming significant share in the overall operating system arena were IBM, with 7.5 percent, and HP, with 3.7 percent.

'A viable alternative'

"The market has accepted Linux as a viable alternative to Unix and other proprietary OSes in mission-critical environments," Gartner wrote, explaining the operating system's strong showing last year.

Indeed, hardly a week goes by without some fresh good news for Linux these days. Now that Natty Narwhal is out, I'll be watching closely to see what new gains are made.

This story, "Linux and Mac OS are the fastest-growing operating systems" was originally published by PCWorld.

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