A Linux bet I’d be willing to take

Part 1 of the Linux Desktop Survey is in; here’s my take on the numbers:

– Ubuntu is at the top with nearly 3 in 10

– Debian and openSUSE/SLED (Enterprise SUSE) are roughly tied for second place with ~1 in 8

– Gentoo and Fedora/Red Hat are roughly tied for fourth with ~1 in 10

– Mandriva (and “ancestors”) sixth with ~1 in 20

The author, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, after noting that Linspire only got about 1 in every 100 votes, went on to make a fairly insightful statement:

“What’s happening here? Well, if you take a look at which distributions did well, you’ll see they have one thing in common: they’re all community-based distributions. I think what we’re seeing with our survey is that the people who’ve invested something of themselves in their Linux desktop are the ones voting. The people who simply use the Linux that’s set in front of them, or just buy it, have less invested in it and so are less likely to vote.”

But then makes this comment:

“I’d be willing to lay down a small bet that as Linspire’s recent community Freespire release gathers more supporters, and based on what I’ve seen of the distro, it will be near the top in our next survey.”

That was a LOL moment :) To quote Groklaw:

“Freespire, which the article describes as a “community-driven distro” that includes proprietary software. Um…what community is that?”

IOW, its Linspire’s astroturfing campaign. And the Linux users who vote in the DLM survey likely know that or can figure that out pretty quickly. I mean really, he even said:

“I also suspect that one reason why Fedora did so comparatively poorly is that Red Hat recently made it clear that the company, and not the community, is calling Fedora’s shots. If the users and developers don’t feel like they have a real say in what’s going on with a distribution, they’re not as likely to stick around.”

So I would be willing to take up Steven on that bet :)

In related news, Distrowatch’s latest newsletter has an interesting historical perspective on the top ten distros with “global reach”:

“When DistroWatch was first launched in May 2001, it listed just ten Linux distributions that had global reach: Caldera, Corel, Debian, Libranet, Mandrake, Progeny, Red Hat, Slackware, SuSE and Turbolinux. […] Of the ten distributions mentioned above, only two continue their work under their original names (Debian and Slackware), three others have undergone name changes (Mandrake has become Mandriva, Red Hat Linux has turned into Fedora Core, and SuSE is now known as openSUSE), while Turbolinux has become a regional distribution with focus on Japan and China. The remaining four are history. […] Today, DistroWatch lists over 500 Linux distributions. […] the number of active distributions currently stands at about 350 […] this number is clearly unmaintainable and the vast majority of them will disappear in the course of the next couple of years, if not months. But things don’t look as bleak as they sound. The truth is that, realistically speaking, not much has changed since 5 years ago as far as the number of “real” Linux distributions is concerned. Weeding out all the “also-runs”, it’s not hard to see that we still only have 10 desktop Linux distributions. Besides the five survivors from five years ago, it’s Ubuntu, Gentoo, KNOPPIX, PCLinuxOS and Arch Linux. The remaining 340 active distributions are either based off one of the above, or specialise in filling a niche market. In other words, they don’t matter.”

IOW, if you pick any of the current top ten, you’ll do well.

Speaking of Distrowatch, if you look at their popularity page, you’ll note that Freespire is rising through the ranks, but causing Linspire to plummit. So my prediction is that while the Linspire/Freespire combo may increase overall by next year, I don’t think it will make it to 5%

Update Aug. 28, 2007:

I just noticed that the results of the 2007 Desktop Linux Survey are in and I would have won the bet… (disclaimer: I didn’t notice the polls open and so never got to vote in it) and by a margin that’s painfully large:

Which Linux distros do you use on your home or office desktop system(s)?

Linspire (formerly Lindows) … 0.1 %
Freespire … 0.3 %

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2 Responses to “A Linux bet I’d be willing to take”

  1. And Linspire makes three… « Limulus Says:

    […] And Linspire makes three… Linspire has now sold out too, though its not a big surprise and will just hasten their demise. […]

  2. Mark Shuttleworth gets quote mined « Limulus Says:

    […] was also the one predicting last year that Freespire would be one of the top distros this year (see my prior entry on this ;) so take his predictions with a grain of salt…  (If I had to pick a distro that might be […]

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