Apple's Mac OS accounted for 2.2 per cent of the desktop/client computer market in 2002, taking second place to Microsoft, reports research firm IDC. The analyst said the Mac OS would concede its runner-up position to Linux by 2004.

Microsoft retained its monolithic dominance of the OS market in 2002 IDC said. It found that Microsoft dominated both client and server markets across that year, and will "defend its market position" for at least the next four years.

Windows accounted for 55.1 per cent of new shipments of server operating systems in 2002, up from 50.5 per cent in 2001, while paid versions of Linux accounted for 23.1 per cent of new shipments in 2002, up from 22.4 per cent in 2002, the research company said in its 'Worldwide Client and Server Operating Environment Market Forecast and Analysis, 2002-2007' report.

However, this report did not take free versions of Linux into account.

Microsoft's hegemony on the client desktop also continued across 2002, climbing from 93.2 to 93.8 per cent of the worldwide market. Linux accounted for 2.8 per cent of that market.

Microsoft's volume licensing programs, aimed at converting its customers to long-term volume licensing plans, have and will continue to play a large part in increasing the company's marketshare.

IDC said there were 5.7 million new sever licence shipments in 2002, an overall decline of 5.1 per cent compared to 2001, with sales of $7.8 billion.

Growth areas

Between 2001 and 2002, only OS server software from Microsoft and Linux experienced market growth, the report claims. The gains were 8.6 per cent and 17.2 per cent respectively, giving Microsoft a 16.7 per cent share of the server market in terms of revenue and Linux a 0.6 per cent share. Combined, all companies selling Unix server software earned 31.1 per cent of 2002 market revenue (a decline of 8.9 per cent from 2001), while Novell's NetWare software carved out 4.3 per cent (a decline of 12.4 per cent), IDC said.

About 47 per cent of server market revenue – $3.7 billion – came from sales of mainframes, midrange computers and other large host-centric operating environments, the report said.

However, sales of OS server software running over mainframes and other large systems declined sharply when comparing 2002 to 2001. According to IDC estimates, vendors shipped 50,000 copies of these in 2002, a decline of 58 per cent over 2001.

IDC attributed the decline to the phasing-out of older network operating systems such as OS/2 from IBM. IBM will end support of OS/2 after 2006, and has recommended OS/2 customers migrate to Linux rather than Windows.

It is this support of Linux from large systems vendors – IBM in particular, but also HP and Sun – that will propel Linux in the server market, as the large vendors have the capital and the will to refine the Linux software and market it, IDC said.


The report singled out The SCO Group's copyright infringement lawsuit against IBM as "the only dark clouds on the Linux horizon," though IDC said it does not foresee the litigation as having the ability to cripple the Linux market as it currently stands.

"Even if the litigation is resolved, the incident may forever put to rest the notion that Linux is 'free' software that can be deployed on any machine without any accountability for ownership and licensing," IDC said. "This weakens a major area of differentiation between Linux and more commercialized operating environments."

IDC predicted that the litigation: "Will be resolved in such a way that Linux can continue on in the current source tree." At worst, should a court side with SCO, "the offending code will be removed and replaced by the open-source developer community without any significant setback in the functionality, reliability, and scalability of the Linux kernel."

IDC projected that Linux platform revenue will increase at more than four times the overall industry average for all platforms through 2007.

Regardless of Linux market gains, its revenue is dwarfed by Microsoft's earning power, IDC said. Microsoft generates about the same amount of OS revenue in three days as the entire Linux industry generates in one year, IDC said.