Global Use of Various Operating Systems

One of the joys of continuing my education is having getting to write a mini-article once a week for my fellow students and instructors. I’ve decided to share some of the better ones here. B.

With the widespread adoption of computing devices in our everyday lives, it is sometimes mind boggling how varied and diverse the operating systems are that run these various devices. A recent study estimates that the global operating system market is valued at around $36 billion USD in 2019, and it is expected to continue to grow for the foreseeable future (Liu, 2019).

Operating systems are often roughly categorized as follows: desktop, mobile, and enterprise. Desktop operating systems are those used in personal computers (yes, a Mac is still a PC!). The mobile operating systems category includes both tablet and smartphone OSs. And enterprise OSs are those operating systems used in networks and servers that handle web, email, telecommunications, and other infrastructure related processes. Enterprise OSs also include those used in ultra-powerful systems that handle big data, as well as research systems where intense simulations are performed.

In the PC market, Apple’s Macintosh operating system has hovered around 10% for years. In 2019, it reached 13% globally. By comparison, Windows remains the dominant OS, weighing in around 77-78% of the global market share, depending on whose numbers you trust (Liu, 2019) (StatCounter, 2019). Linux maintains a “statistically significant” presence in the desktop market, but it can hardly be called a contender with a market share of under 2% globally (StatCounter, 2019). Where it shines, however, is in the enterprise market.

According to an annual report by Statista, as of June this year, nearly 50% of the top supercomputers worldwide were running Linux as their operating system (Holst, 2019). Similarly, variations of the Unix OS are used by over 70% of web servers, and 51.5% of those systems are using Linux (W3Techs, 2019).

Smartphone and table operating systems once had multiple contenders, but in 2019 they have dropped to two (2) main ones: iOS and Android. Android is the clear winner in the smartphone arena, with a market share in the high seventy-percentile range, while iOS hovers in the low to mid 20s (Liu, 2019) (StatCounter, 2019). The figures for tablets are inconsistent, however, with some estimates giving Android 57% of the market (Liu, 2019) and others giving iOS 70-74% (StatCounter, 2019).

None of these figures address the growing use of embedded devices, most of which use real-time operating systems (RTOSs). Discussion of those will have to wait for another time.


Holst, A. (2019, July 1). Supercomputers OS share worldwide 2017-2019. Retrieved from 

Liu, S. (2019, September 6). Operating Systems – Statistics & Facts. Retrieved from 

StatCounter. (2019, August). Desktop Operating System Market Share Worldwide. Retrieved from 

StatCounter. (2019, August). Mobile Operating System Market Share Worldwide. Retrieved from 

W3Techs. (2019, September). Historical trends in the usage of operating systems for websites, September 2019. Retrieved from 

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