Everyone knows that Windows is installed on the vast majority of computers, but it's always interesting to be reminded of what a cash cow the OS has been for Redmond. According to Gartner, Microsoft owned 78.6 percent of the global market revenue share for desktop operating systems at the end of 2010 -- revenue up almost 9 percent from 2009. That means, of the $30.4 billion in revenue that various companies generated, $23.8 billion lined Microsoft's coffers. But while Windows remains the kingpin, Mac OS X and -- wait for it -- Red Hat, posted more substantial gains. Apple's market revenue shot up almost 16 percent to 1.7 percent, Red Hat surged 18 percent, while dark horse Oracle leaped from ninth place to fourth, with a 7,683 percent growth in income -- no small thanks to its 2009 acquisition of Sun Microsystems. Only one question remains, then -- who's the loser here?

Update: Looks like we got this one wrong, folks, as it's not market share that's being measured here, but rather revenue share -- how much money each company made from its operating systems relative to one another. That means companies that price their operating systems cheaper will be at a disadvantage in the rankings, not to mention those organizations that charge nothing at all -- Ubuntu, anyone? Oh, and as some of you have pointed out in comments, there are both desktop and server operating systems in the chart above.
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Gartner Says Worldwide Operating System Software Market Grew to $30.4 Billion in 2010

Recovery of the Global Economy Substantially Contributed to Market Growth

STAMFORD, Conn., April 27, 2011- As the global economy recovered, worldwide operating system (OS) revenue totaled $30.4 billion in 2010, a 7.8 percent increase from 2009, according to Gartner, Inc.

Linux (server) and Mac OS were the fastest-growing subsegments in the server and client OS segments, respectively, while Microsoft maintained its leading position in the overall OS market, with 78.6 percent market share.

"Generally, client OSs outperformed server OSs and grew 9.3 percent in 2010, while the server OS segment grew 5.7 percent," said Matthew Cheung, principal research analyst at Gartner. "The long-pending demand for PC refreshment was unleashed as the economy stepped out from the economic turndown, which drove growth of client OSs."

Among client OSs, Mac OS was the fastest-growing subsegment in 2010 as the unit shipments of Mac desktop/laptop devices saw strong sales, although from a much-smaller basis. Windows client was still the largest client OS segment, with high-single-digit growth, particularly driven by adoption of Windows 7 and the imminent end of life (EOL) of Windows XP.

"In the server OS market, Linux (server) was the fastest-growing subsegment in 2010 as end users adopted more open-standard systems. Within the Unix OS market, IBM AIX had high single-digit growth, but Unix generally experienced modest or negative growth," said Alan Dayley, managing vice president at Gartner. "The EOL threat for Unix OSs such as Tru64 and NetWare pushed the 'other proprietary Unix' subsegment down 39.6 percent in 2010 as some vendors retired their proprietary Unix and moved users to more open systems."

Microsoft held the largest market share of the worldwide OS software segment, with 78.6 percent share in 2010 (see Table 1). The distant second- and third-place vendors were IBM and HP, with 7.5 percent and 3.7 percent share, respectively. Oracle climbed up the ranking from No. 8 in 2009 to No. 4 in 2010 by acquiring Sun Microsystems' Solaris business in April 2009.

Microsoft's Windows (client) business had higher growth at 9.2 percent, compared with its Windows (server) business at 7.5 percent growth. A new wave of PC refreshment after the economic recession was the major reason for the better-performing Windows (client) business. Windows 7 also gained market acceptance as the successor to Windows Vista and XP. The projected EOL of XP in early 2014 drove enterprises to accelerate migration to Windows 7 in the second half of 2010.

Among the three OSs owned by IBM, AIX experienced the highest growth at 9.2 percent due to the popularity of Power Systems. The consolidation of the System p and System i platforms and the strategy to push more AIX contributed to the slow growth of System i at 2.7 percent in 2010.

HP-UX was able to maintain modest growth at 3.7 percent in 2010. However, HP's revenue from proprietary Unix and other proprietary OSs continued to decline because of the discontinuation of Tru64 and a decline in shipments of business-critical systems, such as NonStop and OpenVMS.

Oracle's software revenue from Solaris declined 3.2 percent in 2010 as end users were skeptical about Oracle's commitment to the Solaris platform - although the company made several announcements to clear this anxiety. Oracle's Linux versions (also known as Unbreakable Linux) grew a small base almost 200 percent in 2010 - which also showed Oracle's strategy to lessen its dependence on other vendors' Unix or Linux OSs.

Red Hat has been dominating the commercial Linux (server) market. Revenue of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) server license went up 18.6 percent to $592 million in 2010, taking a 58.2 percent share of the Linux (server) market. Gartner analysts said the phenomenon demonstrates that the market has accepted Linux as a viable alternative to Unix and other proprietary OSs in mission-critical environments.

Mac OS grew 15.8 percent to a size of $520 million in 2010, fueled by the strong sales of Mac desktops and laptops. Apple's making of Mac OS as a "cool" client computing OS has attracted a group of loyal customers on Mac devices and platforms. Apple's continuous innovations in mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, have prompted sales of other Apple devices and will continue to drive Mac sales.

Additional information is available in the Gartner report "Market Share Analysis: Operating System Software, Worldwide, 2010." The report is available on Gartner's website at: http://www.gartner.com/resId=1634314.

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Shocker! Microsoft commands 79 percent of worldwide OS revenue (update)