The Apple Mac is steadily grabbing market share, but Windows-based systems continue to dominate the worldwide personal computer market, according to a new Gartner study.
The report is good news for Microsoft, which has taken its licks lately in the mobile computing market. Redmond's well-received but slow-selling Windows Phone 7 OS has yet to catch on among consumers, who are snapping up Apple iOS and Google Android handsets like crazy.
[ Also on InfoWorld: Apple Mac sales back above 10 percent -- after 20 years. | Get all the details you need on deploying and using Windows 7 in the InfoWorld editors' 21-page Windows 7 Deep Dive PDF special report. | Stay abreast of key Microsoft technologies in our Technology: Microsoft newsletter. ]
Windows 7 has proven a big hit on the desktop, however: 42 percent of PCs worldwide will run Win 7 by the end of 2011, Gartner reports. And nearly 635 million new PCs are expected to ship with the OS by the end of the year.
After a slow start, corporations are finally migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7. "Many enterprises have been planning their deployment of Windows 7 for the last 12 to 18 months, and are now moving rapidly to Windows 7," said Gartner research director Annette Jump in a statement.
However, Windows 7 will likely be the last version of Microsoft's iconic OS that gets deployed via massive, enterprise-wide migrations. The move toward virtual and cloud computing architectures in the next five years will change how upcoming versions of Windows are deployed, the study says.
Another long-term issue for Windows is the rise of "OS-agnostic" applications for both consumer and enterprise PCs. As early as next year, half of enterprise apps won't be tied to any particular operating system. In the consumer market, the proportion of OS-agnostic apps already exceeds Windows-specific apps, Gartner estimates.
What about Mac and Linux?
Apple's slice of the global PC pie may be small, but Mac adoption is growing above the market average. The Mac OS shipped on 3.3 percent of new PCs worldwide in 2008. That figure climbed to 4 percent in 2010, and to 4.5 percent this year -- and it's projected to grown to 5.2 percent by 2015, Gartner says.
The Mac's popularity varies by region, however. Its strongest support is in North America and Western Europe, but its fastest growth may occur in some emerging countries where its current base is small. Gartner attributes the Mac's rise not only to its easy-to-use interface, but also to its integration with Apple mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
Gartner is less optimistic about Linux, which it predicts will remain a niche OS over the next five years with a global share below 2 percent. In the consumer market, Linux will be a non-entity with less than 1 percent of the PC market. End users didn't take to Linux-based mini-notebooks, or netbooks, and today few mini-notes ship with Linux.