Posted on Tuesday 26th of June 2007 at 13:21 in Linux

Popularity graphs of the entire operating system market (Ubuntu, Vista, OS X and more)

Google trends is a cunning tool; one that can be used to show the query frequency of various keywords. Most people misuse it by comparing "Linux" and "Vista" in an attempt to show how one is better than the other - a comparison that's as foolish as it is inaccurate. So I'm putting my thoughts down and applying them to some Google trends searches and here is what I've found.

As I said in the introduction, people tend to compare keywords like "Vista" with something overly generic like "Linux" and that's never going to give you accurate results. However, I'm using it to compare very similar words to offer some scope into the entire operating system situation - here's how I got on.

The Linux Landscape

This is going to be a look into how different ends of the popularity scale appear on Google trends - in an attempt to measure their relative popularity.

The Linux Landscape: Big Players
Looking at Linux initially, the number of queries submitted through Google for specific distros is a decent indication of their relative popularity. After all, more people searching for "Gentoo whatever" than "Mepis whatever" means there's a good chance that more people are using Gentoo than Mepis (well, either that or Mepis is too awesome for people to need help/support/resources). So using this logic I set about mapping the big players in the Linux world.

big players

As you can see in the above graph of the "big players" (as determined by taking the top 5 most popular distros from Distrowatch's ranking table), there are clear winners and losers. Fedora has been a long-standing favourite throughout the community up until Q1 of 2005 where searches for Ubuntu appear to have overtaken it. Since then Ubuntu has been on a distinctive ascent to greatness - dwarfing the other "big players" like PCLinuxOS, OpenSUSE and Mepis who are little more than a drip in this pond.

The Linux Landscape: The Underdogs
The underdogs are the ones who maybe don't have the userbase of leading-edge releases like Ubuntu but it might be possible to see which ones are on the climb. Rather than use the next 5 releases listed on Distrowatch - I'm going to cherry-pick a few of my "special" distros who I feel might have something to prove.

I chose Pardus Linux (placed #49 on Distrowatch), Sabayon (placed #7), Xandros (#29), Dreamlinux (#17) and Kubuntu (#16). Kubuntu may seem a slightly odd addition but it really doesn't have the popularity of it's Gnome sibling so it remains an underdog. How do these releases compare?


Clearly Kubuntu (represented by orange) has probably mirrored the rise of Ubuntu but not so much. Xandros has been a player for quite some time although it's popularity appears to be dropping substancially. Unfortunately it's hard to draw comparison with Kubuntu in the picture so let's analyse a graph without it.


Without Kubuntu overshadowing the smaller releases it's easier to see how the underdogs are performing. Pardus Linux (which I review recently) is on the rise - which is good. Sabayon is on the way up too - albeit slightly slower. DreamLinux is drifting around towards the baseline not really doing much; which doesn't surprise me too much from the few unsuccesful plays I've had with it in recent history. Xandros is sinking like a stone and that's probably not something it's going to recover from anytime soon.

Really, Pardus seems to be the real underdog making small but noticable progress within this neglected market and these are the distros to keep an eye on. My personal tip is to keep a close eye on Pardus because that release is going to be a shocker sometime soon.

The Linux Landscape: Putting it all in perspective
This whole thing makes no sense if it's not put into some level of perspective, so let's see what the trends graph looks like when you put a few "big players" on the same graph as Vista and that should give us some real indication of the relative popularities.


That puts things into a real context doesn't it? OpenSUSE has flat-lined respectively throughout the entire time along with PCLOS while Ubuntu sits half way between Vista and the baseline. Suddenly Vista spikes at the start of 2007 as it actually gets released. So before anyone gets delusions of grandure RE: Ubuntu - Vista isn't looking too unhealthy from the trends graph - although I'd love to see where that green line is going to descend to...

The Operating System Landscape

With the Linux landscape fully modelled using Google trends, it seems to make sense to give the rest of the situation some thought too. We've compared Vista to the major Linux players like Ubuntu and PCLinuxOS but how does it compare to everything else?

The operating System Landscape: Vista and friends
So who do we need to look at? Well XP is still the market leader so that's in, Vista is the questionable heir to XP's thrown so that's in too. Windows2000 still has some users so that's in for good measure. Apple OS X is in to represent the Mac market and Ubuntu is there to represent the Linux movement (as the most popular).


XP is on an understandable decline (in red) as Vista passes it on release. However, it'll be interesting to see where Vista's green line is going because it looks likely that XP will end up being above Vista for a while once again, but we won't know for a couple of months. Ubuntu is pulsing around at the bottom but the real surprise is that OS X is barely present on the graph. Let me ponder on that slightly more...

The operating System Landscape: OS X
I think that OS X should be completely disregarded in this investigation for a few reasons. Either OS X is so intuitive that no one actually needs to search for anything at all or the search phrase that I've chosen isn't actually used (although it does return nearly 400million results). Either way, I'm willing to right off OS X as erroneous because I find it hard to believe that Ubuntu is more popular than OSX.


Well take from this whatever you want, Ubuntu is the most popular Linux release but is still dwarfed by Vista. Vista is above XP for now but looks like it might fall back underneath it before too long... I think it's fair to conclude that while the mainstream market has very little activity - the Linux one is forever changing. Looking at the underdogs is evidence of this - Pardus; a relatively unknown release is making sensibly sized gains over similarly undervalued distros. Whatever you want to take from this, it's clear to see what the situation is currently and that it's not looking like changing any time soon.


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Who is Seopher?

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