Linux kicks Microsoft back

Linux kicks Microsoft back

Summary: Analysts say Linux has 1/3rd of the netbook market. Microsoft says they have a 93% share. They can't both be right. Who's lying?


Bucking the conventional wisdom and Microsoft press releases, ABI Research says that Linux has a 32% share of the netbook market - and predicts Linux will overtake Windows by 2013. Microsoft says ". . . over 93% of worldwide small notebook PCs run Windows today." They can't both be right.

Credibility? Microsoft is, of course, the world's largest software company. Other than a conviction for illegal anti-trust activity against Netscape - a conviction unanimously confirmed on appeal - and over $10 billion in settlements for anti-trust and patent infringement claims, they are clean.

ABI Research has been in business for 19 years. Senior analyst Jeff Orr joined them last year. ABI is an established firm.

Dell chimes in Further, after I published Windows kicks Linux to the curb last January, Dell said 1/3rd of Mini 9s sold run Linux. And Dell later said the return rate wasn't any higher than XP's.

Analyst Orr stresses that a lot of the Linux activity is outside the US, where people are less locked into Windows. And he also conscientiously does not include dual-boot systems - Linux only systems, please.

So who's telling the truth? Microsofties have a special problem: their CEO, Steve Ballmer. He of the chair-throwing hissy fits. The "ha-ha, stomp your iPhone" CEO.

The one who claimed a 60% mobile market share when independent analysts said 14%. Steve Ballmer may be a fine fellow - he could be a warm and caring human being with bad press - he just doesn't want to hear bad news.

Why bad news is good news "Management by exception" (MBE) is a popular management model that says look at things that aren't performing as expected. But for MBE to work, someone has to tell the CEO the bad news.

Then the CEO can figure out what the problem is - maybe the CEO was wrong about something - and then fix it. Microsoft has had enough problems in the last 10 years to practice on.

But at Microsoft, it seems few people tell the CEO bad news. Of course, facts are facts, so spinning to make them OK is a corporate survival strategy.

The Storage Bits take I don't think Microsoft is deliberately lying. They just see the world differently than you and the analysts do.

Here's what's happening. People in the trenches knew, for example, that the Mini 9 business was 1/3rd Linux. Windows marketing knew because Dell is a big customer.

So, do you tell the boss that you've screwed up and Linux is gaining share at one of the world's largest PC vendors? Nah, that's for losers.

Instead, through the magic of market segmentation, you pull Dell's Linux numbers out of the "small PC" market and put them in some other market - mobile Internet devices, say - until you get to the preferred "93% share" number. And you mention that you've "heard" that Linux returns are a lot higher, i.e. Linux isn't competitive.

Mission accomplished. Now, you're sucking wind in the mobile Internet device catagory, but that's not your problem - Windows 7 Mobile will fix it - or not. Meanwhile you've lived to fight another day.

Comments welcome, of course. I spent over 20 years in big companies and yes, stuff like this really happens. Update: A year ago I believed Microsoft's numbers. Today, not so much.End update.

Topics: Dell, CXO, Linux, Microsoft, Mobility, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Are you just looking for some extra Christmas money?

    That has [i]got[/i] to be one of the most subjective things you've written.

    I'm getting the feeling you're just looking to start a quick little flame war to grab some extra Christmas money from ZDNet.

    Why not do an article on why Apple never gives sales figures on certain products? Probally because actuall sales are far below what analyst are guessing, which would be murder on the stock price.

    Plus you never want to tell the CEO his figures are wrong...
    John Zern
    • Ballmer may not be the only one who just doesn?t want to hear bad news...

      many commenters here share his aversion to bad news and prefer spinning facts to make them OK and used that as a survival strategy.
      The Mentalist
      • Don't be so quick to point fingers.

        Make sure your hands are clean first.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
        • Mine are

          And I hope you're not equating him to the CEO of a multi-billion dollar monopoly.
          Wintel BSOD
          • Why don't you get out of your basement sometime...

            Maybe then you can be the CEO of a multi-billion dollar monopoly.
          • Soon as you wash my hands

            Do you do manicures?

            lol... :D
            Wintel BSOD
    • It does read that way

      and I'm pretty sure that's the case. Seems to be the trend on ZDNet now.
      Loverock Davidson
      • Get back to your porsche Donovan

        the other gamers aren't waiting so get back to it or your score will suffer.
        The Mentalist
  • I disagree

    My phone is my phone. Not my workplace. Never will be.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • That may be true for you...

      ...and I thought it would have been true for me. But its often not anymore and thats true for many other people now as well. Honestly I'm just waiting on the company smart enough to do a tablet between the size of a smartphone and netbook that is also a phone. I will probably do quite a bit of work from this device.
  • M$ is fudging the numbers

    But it will still go down in flames.
    Linux Geek
    • .. while linux geeks always tell the truth?

      Microsoft haters stay true to their commitment to bash MS at every chance, regardless of veracity of their claims. I'd no more take your word for any comment any sooner than I'd take Ballmer's.

      Linux geeks and Apple devotees are incredibly partisan.
      • The true test is that of mutual trust

        Linux trusts their customers, while Microsoft considers all their customers thieves (at least that's how they treat them).

        It seems that Microsoft would tell a lie on credit when they could tell the truth for cash.
        Ole Man
        • Microsoft treats all their customers as thieves?

          Please elaborate.
          • WGA? (NT)

          • When legally bought version is harder to activate...

            ...than just installing batched up & cracked pirated version.
            Yes, I think it speaks for itself when in worst case scenarios you will have to do a frustrating, time taking and - in some cases - almost impossible product activation through phone (at your own extra cost naturally) just because you are trying to install your copy of windows on 2nd machine (having bought it because the 1st is broken and/or too old for your needs).

            You have to prove that you are not in fact a thief - what does it mean if not that they consider you as a thief unless you prove them otherwise?

            It did not use to be this way - customers were respected.
          • Thief....

            If you're trying to install Windows on a second machine you are a thief -- even if you've removed it from the original. The license isn't transferable from one machine to another.

            The fact that you can call MS on the phone and they will take your word for it that you aren't robbing them and activate your second machine anyway shows that they're more trusting of their customers than some of their customers deserve.
          • How about...

            ...when it's the same machine but you've just done a simple bios upgrade? And it won't let you long in to do the registration on-line? And you wait on hold for 5 minutes listening to messages about how much easier it is to register on-line?

            He's right, it didn't used to be this way. And a retail license [i][b]is[/i][/b] transferable.
      • It comes from many years...

        of having to pay their price.
        Wintel BSOD
  • The 'future' has yet to be written

    Mobile devices share one distinct weakness - trying to be everything to everybody. The past has shown many times that this is the road to failure. "The future'
    does not lie in having one device to do everything. It lays with being able to access information as easily with one device as another.