HP's vice president of Linux, Martin Fink believes that Linux will take over the Mac as the number two operating system – second to Microsoft Windows.

He told ComputerWorld: "This is the year that Linux overtakes the Mac on the desktop."

But he doesn't think that Linux's growing popularity will be a threat to the Mac. He told Wired: "We don’t think we're displacing Mac customers. We're displacing Windows customers. Apple has a pretty dedicated installed base."

Already ahead

Analysts at IDC believe Linux has already taken over the Mac OS in terms of popularity. IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky said: "Linux captured the number two spot as desktop operating system in 2003. By 2007, IDC estimates that Linux will have 6 per cent of the desktop market in terms of units."

But other analysts are sceptical about IDCs predictions. Technology Business Research analyst Tim Deal told Wired: "I think those numbers are dubious."

Aberdeen Group analyst Peter Kastner said: "The Mac has roughly 3 per cent of the desktop market, and the Linux share is considerably lower than that."

Not ready

Despite Linux's popularity as a server operating system, it has had less success on the desktop. ComputerWorld notes that in late 2000, IBM began offering Linux preinstalled on its A20 and T20 notebooks, but it eventually withdrew the Linux offerings.

Linux distributor Red Hat spokesperson Leigh Day admitted Linux isn't yet ready for the desktop. She told Wired: "The stuff for a consumer desktop – media players, video drivers – are not yet mature."