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January 21st, 2013

Linux & Windows 8: So Far the Penguin Is Ahead

There’s no real way to compare how the various desktop Linux distros are doing against Windows 8, Microsoft’s newly crowned flagship product, since Linux isn’t offered preinstalled in any meaningful way by the major OEMs. What we do know is that the new Windows would seem to be failing to excite buyers; folks haven’t been rushing to the big box stores to purchase new desktops or laptops running the new operating system.

This seems odd, since Microsoft was claiming unbelievably fantastic figures for their new touch based OS before the arrival of the holiday shopping season, as Sarfaraz A. Khan explained a few weeks ago on Seeking Alpha:

“…Microsoft has boasted that it has sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses from the date of its release till 27th November (Nobody, except Microsoft, knows exactly as to what a ‘license sale’ constitutes). As far as the previous versions are concerned, the company sold 20 million (Vista) and 10 million (XP) licenses in the corresponding periods. The 40 million sold includes upgrades from previous versions as well as those sold as pre-installed on new laptops.”

40 million licenses in the first four weeks after release does seem to be a bit high, unless there was a big move to upgrade some old XP machines by Redmond’s enterprise clients. Other than that possibility, the numbers don’t make sense if we study the figures coming from Microsoft’s biggest partners.

For example, Fujitsu’s CEO has said the company missed its shipping target for 2012 because of slow demand for Windows 8 and Emmanuel Fromont, president of Acer America, called Windows 8 early sales “a slow start.” Back in November, Asus’ CFO David Chang said that demand for the operating system “is not that good right now.”

While the new Windows, with its user interface designed for mobile use, is partly to blame, the market’s shift to tablets and other mobile devices is also a large challenge for Redmond–certainly larger for them than for Linux and Apple. While Apple started the move to tablets with the release of the iPad, and Linux has always been nimble, used to power everything from desktops to embedded devices, Windows has always been primarily an operating system for desktops and laptops–which are now losing their dominance.

According to a report published last Monday in The Inquirer, analysts at Gartner reported a five percent decline in PC shipments in the last quarter of 2012, a decline the firm attributes to the rise of the tablet:

“‘Tablets have dramatically changed the device landscape for PCs, not so much by “cannibalizing” PC sales, but by causing PC users to shift consumption to tablets rather than replacing older PCs,’ said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner.

“‘Whereas as once we imagined a world in which individual users would have both a PC and a tablet as personal devices, we increasingly suspect that most individuals will shift consumption activity to a personal tablet, and perform creative and administrative tasks on a shared PC.'”

The tablet and smartphone markets are areas where there are good figures to compare how Linux is doing when compared to Windows, and so far the penguin is winning–and winning big.

Sales of Microsoft’s Surface tablet on ARM, running Windows RT, have been dismal, prompting The Register to call the device “a blunder” in an article published on Friday:

“The problem is that Microsoft chose to launch Surface based on an ARM processor running Windows RT, a misguided stab at a tablet-centric user experience that hoped to capture something of what made Apple’s iPad so successful. Instead, Redmond delivered an oddly hobbled OS that’s neither fish nor fowl, one that falls somewhere between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 – but with the advantages of neither.

“For all Microsoft’s hype around Surface RT, customers aren’t buying it – literally.”

According to Brent Thill with the financial services company UBS, Redmond sold only one million of the devices since the product’s launch in October. Another Surface tablet, running the full version of Windows 8 on Intel chips, is scheduled to be released soon and is expected to be somewhat better received.

During the period when Microsoft was struggling to move a million units, Apple pushed 20 million iPads out the door. Linux based Android devices, which includes Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook, are also racking up some impressive figures. How impressive? Consider this, Google’s flagship offering, the Nexus 7, has been outselling the iPad in Japan–and it’s just one of many tablets running Android.

So far, Android tablet market share still lags behind Apple. However, that is changing as inexpensive tablets, priced as low as $100, are coming to market. Meanwhile, it’s a wait and see game, to determine how well Microsoft will fare with the Intel powered Surface Pro when it’s released in the next week or so.

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

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7 comments to Linux & Windows 8: So Far the Penguin Is Ahead

  • jelabarre

    I’m certainly not buying Win8 to upgrade MY machines, as a lot of them won’t even run it. But they’ll handle current Linux distros just fine.

  • LD

    Windows 8 Would be alright (As much as an MS OS can be) if they gave you the choice to start with the classic desktop rather than starting with the touch screen interface. IT’s there underneath that annoying interface, why not allow people the choice to boot into it.

    Frankly, I really doesn’t matter to me, I have been using Linux as my main desktop for 15 years and I really don’t see me changing.

  • JPR

    Not going to “upgrade” to Windows 8 either … same old stuff with more overhead!

  • e8hffff

    Does anyone care about Microsoft any more?

  • […] Linux & Windows 8: So Far the Penguin Is Ahead There’s no real way to compare how the various desktop Linux distros are doing against Windows 8, Microsoft’s newly crowned flagship product, since Linux isn’t offered preinstalled in any meaningful way by the major OEMs. What we do know is that the new Windows would seem to be failing to excite buyers; folks haven’t been rushing to the big box stores to purchase a new desktop or laptop running the new operating system. […]

  • marlor

    I certainly am not going to buy Windows 8. I currently am running Windows 7 dual booting with Ubuntu 12.04. Windows 7 has a major flaw with its file management – constantly is getting corrupt and causes the desktop to lock up. Like I said this is a major flaw and Microsoft has not fixed the problem and I do not think they will. I certainly am not going to pay for another Microsoft operating system for more problems. With Ubuntu I do not have this problem – runs very smoothly.

    Microsoft is loosing its touch.

  • Eddie G.

    I for one have turned my back on Windows. I had used it right up until Windows 2000, but after having hardware and software issues galore, I just couldn’t force myself to get back on the SAME treadmill and buy yet ANOTHER “Microsoft” machine. So instead I did a little reading and discovered Linux and the many distros and “flavours” it comes in. I have ben using it ever since! I have five different machines they all run a different distro of Linux, they all “play” nice with each other…and they have no problem when conecting to a Windows machine when need be. When I stop and consider the amount of money I’ve blown on Windows machines, had I found Linux about 8 – 13 years ago, I would be a rich person right about now!…LoL!