Sizing the Linux Market [White Paper]
UseLinux, January 11, 1997
Freely-distributable software has many advantages in particular related to
cooperative development, but it does have one disadvantage that we know of;
namely that there is no way of knowing how many people might be using any
particular piece of code.
Not knowing how many users an operating system has causes many odd problems
the worst of which is for the commercial companies who would like to work in
the Linux market. They cannot plan properly without know whether they are
dealing with thousands or millions of potential customers.
For reference, we use the the terms Linux "users" and Linux "machines"
interchangeably as we estimate that for every computer that has more than
one user there is at least one user who is running more than one Linux
machine where in fact there may be either many more users than machines or
machines than users. We simply have no way of knowing.
USE OF THIS PAPER
This paper is our attempt to provide as much as is currently known about the
size of the Linux market. It is based on estimates that are drawn from the
most reliable sources that we can find. Having said that it should be noted
that these are only estimates and if you feel that you have better data than
that which is shown here I'd be thrilled to hear it. You are welcome to use
this paper for any purpose you see fit provided:
You acknowledge Red Hat's contribution.
Refer to the numbers found here as "estimates"
Include the date of this estimate as shown above.
OTHER SOURCES OF LINUX USER ESTIMATES
There are several other sources of estimates of Linux usage that we have
chosen not to use for the purpose of preparing this paper. This is not to
be taken as any form of comment on the validity of that work. The most well
known of these is the Linux Counter, a voluntary registration system managed
by Lars Avesulson (sp??) more information can be found at:
SALES OF LINUX CD-ROMS
While this does not give an answer itself it does cooberate some of the
other date we do use. The strength being primarily that it indicates that
there is a healthy and growing market for Linux products. The problem with
this data is that we do not know if each CD-ROM is being used to install
many Linux computers, or conversely if most CD-ROMS are being sold as
updates to users who are already running Linux from a previous installation.
While US suppliers represented (in our opinion) the majority of the Linux
products shipped during the year there were significant numbers of non-US
based CD-Roms manufacturered and sold in countries including:
- Our estimates based on our research during the year was that US Based
Suppliers of Linux CD-Rom products sold 450,000 units in 1996.
and Taiwan and China
DOWNLOADS BY FTP
One of the great mysteries of Linux usage is that there is no way to know
the number of Linux users who download the product by anonymous ftp. These
users range from students and developing countries who primary interest is
the low cost, to advanced engineering groups who prefer to download these
tools to ensure that they are using the very latest versions of all the
tools and utilities.
Because of the problems of counting numbers of copies of Linux distributed
as shown above we chose instead to base our estimates on counting the number
of Linux users against the number of UNIX (r) users. While far from an
exact sciense either, the number of UNIX users has been tracked and
estimated by more credible organization using more sophisticated techniques
than we are pretenting to use.
Four other publications who have looked at Linux Useage are more interesting:
- Linux Journal.
While the rapid growth in the distribution and paid subscription of the
Linux Journal over the last two years (see their web site at
http:/www.ssc.com) indicates a healthy growing user base for the Linux OS,
its 45,000 total circulation serves only as a minimum base number of users,
ie there is not less than 45,000 Linux users.
- UNIX Review
- (circulation 90,000+) a US-based Miller
publication, acknowledged that in a late 1995 survey that 10% of their
readers used Linux.
- IX Magazine
- (circulation 35,000+) a leading German UNIX
in a recent 1996 survey that 34% of their readers used Linux
- A Mcgraw Hill organization that reports on a wide
computing product trends found that 11% of their 1996 survey of UNIX using
corporate MIS directors, were using Linux in their organizations.
- Sys Admin
- (circulation 25,000+), a publication serving UNIX
administrators, in a late 1996 survey found that 21% of their readers were
LINUX USERS AS A % OF UNIX USERS
The current UNIX industry figures are that there are 6,000,000 active UNIX
users. Taking the above publications as representative of this industry, we
come up with a population of Linux users of between 11% and 34% of the total
of UNIX users, or between 600,000 and 2,000,000.
RED HAT SOFTWARE's CUSTOMER DATA
Our own experience selling to and supporting Linux users has highlighted and
important fact that bears on the above numbers. It is our experience that
the majority of our customers have not used UNIX previously. Our
registration system survey indicates that 56.2% of Linux users have not
previously used UNIX, or conversely that only 43.8% have had previous
experience with UNIX.
Non-UNIX users would have had no reason to read or subscribe to any of the
UNIX magazines listed above. This would mean that the above estimates of
Linux users are only 43.8% of the actual total.
The total population of Linux users then becomes:
These numbers of course do not include the users who have downloaded Linux
at no cost, and the Linux users in countries and markets with whom we do not
currently have much contact.
|Low estimates:||(600,000 +
|High estimates:||(2,000,000 +
RED HAT's OFFICIAL JANUARY 1997 ESTIMATE OF LINUX USERS
So in summary based on the above methodology and our own rough feel for
these numbers, we estimate to within a margin of error of 25%+/- that there
are between 3,000,000 and 5,000,000 active Linux users.
It is interesting to compare this figure our rough estimates of the numbers
of Linux users in past years:
I hope these figures are of some help.
Please send email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any
|(end of) 1993:||100,000|
| 1996:||3,000,000 to 5,000,000|