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Are Chromebooks Fuelling Rise in Linux OS Marketshare?

chromebook-questionsIt’s a question many have been asking over the past few months, as open-source enthusiasts rallied around reports that show Linux marketshare gaining ground for another consecutive month.

‘Why?’, many asked. Why now, after years of loitering around ~1% mark is Linux lifting off? Why are stat counters and markshare analysts suddenly finding more beans to count in the penguins’ corner?

The answer could be Chromebooks.

Chrome Behind Rise in Linux Marketshare

Linux marketshare has been above 2% for the 6 consecutive months, according to NetMarketshare. This is more than just the odd, unexpected, anomalous spike (as seen in the past).

Now, the latest Ubuntu release is pretty great, and Fedora 25 has been getting rave reviews. But is regular ol’ GNU/Linux really seeing a big uptick after years of minimal encroachment against the establish titans of Microsoft and, er, that’s it?

Reader GizmoChicken, like many, initially took the rise in Linux marketshare (as reported by NMS) to be just that: a rise in the number of people running/using/browsing the web from Linux.

But, as he explains in a Reddit discussion: ‘the more that I looked, the less sure that I was [that this figure did not include Chromebooks]. I wrote to those who maintain the website and asked for clarification. No one responded.’

‘Although I still can’t say with certainty what the figure includes, my guess is now the the Linux market share recited on the website (over 2%) does include the market share of Chromebooks.’

What’s got him convinced? Well, the growing market share of Chromebooks for one. Chromebooks outsold Macbooks earlier this year, having previously outpaced iPads and even Windows devices.

Chromebooks run Chrome OS, which is a highly-customised version of a Linux distribution called Gentoo. Many are now considering whether Chrome OS is being counted as part of the overall Linux figure, helping to buoy its stats.

Curious, GizmoChicken downloaded data from StatCounter, one of the few market share monitoring companies to differentiate between “Linux” and “Chrome OS”.

The resulting graph, unsurprisingly, document’s Chrome OS’s rapid growth over the past 4 years as it’s chalked up impressive sales feat after impressive sales feat. But the data also shows that Chrome OS usage has risen particularly faster over the past year (from 0.51% in 12/2015 to 0.84% in 12/2016).

Regular desktop Linux? That, StatCounter data says, has remained largely consistent, rising modestly from 1.48% in 12/2015 to 1.55% in 12/2016.

Now, honestly, at this end of the scale there’s plenty of room for error. A sudden change in user agent could quickly show a comparatively large bump in data that, versus other desktop operating systems, is pure statistical noise.

GizmoChicken concludes that a “market share of about 1% for Chromebooks, combined with a market share of about 1% (as cited by others) for traditional GNU/Linux, gets you to the about 2% market share for Linux recited on the website. And unfortunately for traditional GNU/Linux, most of the month-to-month growth probably stems from rapid growth in Chromebook market share, not from the growth in traditional GNU/Linux market share.

Short of the maintainers of the website to disclose their methodology in greater detail, or other simialr stat firms starting to cleanly delinate between different Linux distributions, it’s hard to say for sure.

What do you think?

  • Mark McCoskey

    I’ve yet to jump on the Chrome OS bandwagon, but plan on doing so eventually. I’m still using Win 7, but absolutely dislike 8 & 10. The end of the road for Windows is in sight. I have one program that I use that is holding me there. Otherwise, Chrome, or Andromeda, will become my OS of choice. I’m already an Android Nexus user, so Andromeda makes perfect sense to me.

    • BlankStatement

      program name?

      • Mark McCoskey

        FXCM Trading Station.

        • GizmoChicken

          Looks like an Android version of FXCM Trading Station is available. Is the Android version sufficiently feature complete compared to the Windows version? If so, then, once Android apps become more widely available on Chromebooks (using Arc++), perhaps running FXCM Trading Station on a Chromebook will be a feasible option.

      • Mark McCoskey

        Also Magic DVD Ripper.

        • Plenty of Linux based DVD ripping or copying tools, e.g K9copy and Handbrake

    • Packer Backer

      Put my wife on a Chromebook two years ago. No support demands anymore. I LOVE it!

      • Same here – I run Linux on my laptop/homeserver/all remote servers… and my wife has been loving her Chromebook. Will soon be playing with Crouton as well.

    • RMP

      Andromeda is still vaporware. It’s still a ways off and may not appear on the types of devices that people assume — if at all. Since the Android Play Store is now rolling out on Chromebooks, that may be how you’ll actually use Android apps on a laptop or convertible platform.

    • james___b

      “The end of the road for Windows is in sight”

      A little dramatic, huh? That’s not happening anytime soon.

      • Mark McCoskey

        It is for me, James. That’s all I was saying.

  • Iguano

    ChromeOS is Linux, im not agree when you say is unfortunately for traditional GNU/Linux, it doesn’t matter who is helping for the grow, Canonical, Red Hat, Google, Valve? it doesn’t matter, the kernel will have more support, will have better drivers, will be more stable in laptops and desktops, etc. if the chromebooks take 10% of the market share, the people who use a traditional GNU/Linux, or a steam machine will receive the benefits also.

    • BlankStatement

      the problem is, if we got programs that only work on chromebooks, like those we have for android.

      and traditional linux programs dont work on chormebooks.

      • Iguano

        well, having a better kernel will attract more people to GNU/Linux, the difference between android and chrome os, is that you can use the chrome os apps in linux, using chrome or chromiun
        GNU/Linux is also growing, our +2% is not only because chromebooks, it helps obviously.

        i think Linux is growing because OSX and Windows sucks lately, a 4gb ram computer with osx is almost unusable, linux software is getting better faster than the others.

        • BlankStatement

          We have the SAME kernel than Android or Chromebook, and no, no one chose an os based on the kernel, the programas or performance are the reason

    • GizmoChicken

      I don’t think that Joey means to imply that growth in Chromebooks is, in any way, detrimental the traditional GNU/Linux. Indeed, most agree that growth in Linux, in whatever form, benefits the entire Linux community.

      Rather the phrase “unfortunately for traditional GNU/Linux” as used in this article merely serves to underscore that, despite the technical progress made with traditional GNU/Linux distributions, the market share for those distributions, at least according to StatCounter, has, unfortunately, remained fairly stagnant for the last year or so.

  • Bradley Ford

    Why don’t you try analysing by region?

    It’s my understanding that CHROMEOS from a sales perspective is much stronger in the US. So we then should see a higher traffic percentage in the US, and lower in other countries.

    • RMP

      Excellent observation. Since Chromebooks are mainly still a U.S. phenomenon, readers probably assume that “market” means “U.S. market.” That type of careless ambiguity is common in most internet articles.

    • GizmoChicken

      The 0.84% market share recited for Chrome OS in this article is the “worldwide” market share as reported by StatCounter. Of course the market share for Chrome OS varies greatly from country to country. For example, according to StatCounter, as of 2016-12, the market share for Chrome OS in Germany was only 0.13%. In contrast, also according to StatCounter, as of 2016-12, the market share for Chrome OS in the UK was 1.11% and in the US was 3.09%.

    • John Nemesh

      Technically, Android is Linux too…so if you include Android, that would put Linux at 16%

    • RMP

      Not that anyone is skeptical, but for the sake of credibility, you should cite (or link) the source of the table. It’s just good practice.

      • Tomfoolery

        It looks a lot like a table from Google Analytics, Adwords or DoubleClick. So basically, he is taking the small sample size of users on a specific website and extrapolating to all devices in the world. Not exactly the most scientific approach to come to a conclusion…

    • SPM

      That table is clearly wrong. Android is about 60% market share of client OSes. Windows is 14% just behind IOS.

  • IJK

    That’s Chrome – not the hideous Gnome, Unity and KDE which, aiming to please the masses, the only thing that they achieved is to alienate a good portion of power users.

    • Lasp94

      Sad, but true!

    • Sinon Konno

      Chrome is a “one size fits all” thing and for people like me who use GNU/Linux like that ” hideous Gnome, Unity and KDE” which allow a user to customize their experience it almost feels like a step down.

  • P3t3r D1nd0

    the answer why linux is raising is windows 10. I don’t use PC often but when I do, I am expecting quick boot and short ready time. But many times when I start W10, I had to wait for updates to finish. Many times. I was fed up with this waiting so I install dual boot linux and everytime I need pc for something, I boot to linux and bang I am there nice and smoothly. I boot to windows only when I want to run some game and for no other reason.

    • AS118

      I know what you’re talking about. For a long time, an LTS version of Mint was my go-to because of that. Even on a magnetic HDD, Mint’s boot times were amazing.

  • Bram Schrijver

    If Chrome OS could be downloaded like Ubuntu and so on Lunix sshould have 20 % of the market so why dont they

    • Sinon Konno

      You should look up Neverware, it’s basically Chrome OS for non Chromebooks.

  • I use regular linux on my chromebook. i don’t even use ChromeOS anymore.

    • Matt Hopper

      yep yep… I really like Chromebooks and recommend them to others. As for myself, I run Ubuntu via Crouton and play quite a few games via Steam on the Ubuntu side… now, when Google Play Store shows up on ChromeOS side… this sub $300 laptop will be pretty sweet with ChromeOS, Play Store, Ubuntu, and Steam all rolled into one!

      • Iiari

        Same for me. I pretty much just use Chrome OS right now as an Ubuntu XFCE launcher. Some of my CB’s already have the Play Store, so you’re right, to have Chrome OS, Ubuntu, Android, and Steam gaming all in one is awesome. The only downside is that the integrated Intel HD graphics hardware in CB’s (and many laptops) is terrible, limiting gaming significantly (but, for me, that’s what LiquidSky is for). I’d pay handsomely for a Chromebook/box with uprated 3D graphics cards…

        • GizmoChicken

          I’ve been pushing for Android app compatibility on Ubuntu, which could rely on the same open source technology (Arc++) that Google uses for bringing Android apps to Chromebooks. Whenever I mention that possibility on the Ubuntu subreddit, I receive negative comments from the mods, and so I guess that Canonical/Ubuntu won’t be bringing that feature to us. But maybe some other developer will step in. (Shashlik sort of works now, but Arc++ ported from Chrome OS to traditional GNU/Linux would work much better.)

    • Ditto. I replaced Chrome OS with elementary OS as my daily driver on my Pixel 2 LS. It runs like a dream. I love Chrome OS but as an engineer I just got tired of the constant tediousness with using developer mode and crouton.

      Now if Google ever released that rumored Andromeda or allowed Chrome OS to run regular Linux apps, I would happily switch back on that machine.

      • i’d check out GalliumOS if I were you. it’s an XFCE distro designed to run on chromebooks.

        • I’m familiar with it but don’t really care for the XFCE as a desktop environment. All of the low resource DE’s always feel incomplete to me and on machine where I don’t have the resources I just end up defaulting to a tiling window manager like i3 or bspwm

  • RMP

    Non-U.S. spelling of fueling….

    • Boothy

      How strange for someone who is not from the U.S…………….
      Almost like they might be English……….

    • Oddly enough, only the US uses US spelling… and yet there’re a lot of other English speakers on the planet… in the UK, India, Australia, NZ, Canada, South Africa, and a host of other British Commonwealth countries which, if aggregated, dwarf the US in area and population.

      • RMP

        In many of those countries, they also drive on the wrong side of the road…and speak English with a funny accent…and have tea with crumpets on their coffee break.

  • Actually, the desktop is the *only* place where Windows still reigns. The mobile device (smartphone + tablet), the cloud, the server, IoT, everywhere else is already Linux dominated.

  • Jay

    I tried to talk my sister into a Chromebook but she stuck with windows OS and got a win10 machine even though 100% of her computer use is internet and email. She’s been down now for 5 days after a win10 update knocked out her internet. After many hours of tech support phone calls and paying a local guy for help, I think she’s much more open now to other OS.

    • YY

      With Windows users, just trust Darwin’s Laws. And don’t EVER help Windows users with maintaining Windows. They say it’s important for them. They say it’s only this instance they need your help. They say ..
      In the end, they all lie! They’re just too lazy and too ignorant to accept good advise and invest time themselves in a better solution.
      In the end, you can’t help a Windows user with Windows. It’s just like lending money to a junky who’s saying ‘this is the last time, I’ll change’. DON’T!!!

  • Smanny

    The other thing that could make Linux stats rise, is all the new SBCs and other IoT devices that are on the market. The vast majority of them are running some Linux distribution. So these small boards could be helping out as well.


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  • I wouldn’t be all that surprised. For my writing and proofreading needs, I replaced my 10in Galaxy 2 with a Lenovo N22 Windows laptop. This is basically the N22 Chromebook sans touch screen and with four times as much storage space. At $149, it met both my computing needs and my budget needs, and it was easy to install Linux on. Its also quite possible to install Linux on the Chromebook version as well, although I haven’t done that… yet (we do have one in our house, but the owner is happy with Chrome). For basic web surfing, these are adequate, and Linux is a great improvement to them, allowing real computing on a limited budget, which could very well be why the number is going up.

  • GizmoChicken


    Thanks much for writing this article. And I especially appreciate the attribution!

    I do want to add a note of clarification:

    I mentioned in another thread on Reddit, I don’t pay too much attention
    to the % values reported by either NetMarketshare or StatCounter, but
    instead focus on the rates of change in market share that can be derived
    from the data.

    That is, I think that the methods employed by
    NetMarketshare or StatCounter each give reasonable estimates of rates of
    change in market share. For example, the increases in market share for
    Chrome OS as reported by StatCounter square pretty well with sales data.
    Similarly, the increases in market share for Windows 10 reported by
    StatCounter also square pretty well with sales/upgrade data.

    although I don’t put much stock in the “1.48%” number as being a true
    market share for traditional GNU/Linux in 12/2015, or in the “1.55%”
    number as being a true market share for traditional GNU/Linux in
    12/2016, I do believe that the data accurately reflect that the market
    share for traditional GNU/Linux (whatever its actual value may be)
    hasn’t really changed much over the past year.

    Also, I notice
    that many on Reddit are debating whether NetMarketshare should, or
    shouldn’t, include Chromebook market share among overall “Linux” market
    share. Personally, I don’t take a strong position either way. Rather,
    what’s more important to me is that NetMarketshare should clarify what their numbers actually reflect.

    Thanks again for the article. And Merry Christmas!

    Best regards,

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  • When I first joined my company they were a Windows 7 only company and it was pretty strictly enforced by IT however with the release of Windows 8 and 10 being so consumer focused, slow, and clunky there was a lot of pushback because it made the system pretty unusable for productivity without jumping through hoops.

    Now everyone I work with has moved over to Mac OS, Ubuntu, or elementary OS. A lot of regular people I know are switching off Windows for their new machines too due to bad reviews from users when it comes to Windows 10 sluggish performance that gets worse with normal use.

  • Arnold Rimmer

    you can’t buy chromeos laptops anymore in germany… at least not in electrical shops. I asked once at saturn why and they said their customers don’t want a chrome book – there is no demand. Everyone just wants a android tablet.

    • GizmoChicken

      Honestly, when I first read your post, I doubted you. But the data from StatCounter confirms that you are correct!

      According to StatCounter, as of 2016-12, the market share for Chrome OS in Germany was only 0.13%. In contrast, also according to StatCounter, as of 2016-12, the market share for Chrome OS in the UK was 1.11% and in the US was 3.09%.

      • Marco Fritz

        Germany ist somewhat old school.

    • Isn’t Germany big on Linux?

      • Arnold Rimmer

        In IT environments, about as much as everywhere else. As far as the ordinary public is concerned, no.

        • I’d say it’s a bit more than that tho.
          Not sure about all of Germany but here in Berlin it’s quite common to see computers running Ubuntu or Mint whenever you go to cafés, events, etc…

          Also according to statcounter, linux had a 3.77% share in desktop computers in Dec. 2016 in Germany, higher than the global average by some margin.

          • Arnold Rimmer

            HI Randmeur… I’m living in berlin but haven’t seen anyone using linux except at my place of work. The only computers I see on trains, cafes etc are macs :( I would like to see more linux systems though.

            What part of berlin do you see them in?

          • Mostly in café bars around F’hain, Xberg, sometimes Neukölln (in addition to the bigger mac crowd ;)
            Also if you have access or can see the desktops / laptops installed in these bars on which they play the music, you’ll find it’s usually a linux distro.

            Additionally, my work is in non-tech related academia and I’d say at least 10% of my colleagues are operating GNU/Linux machines. The biggest hurdle in our case is naturally all the propriety software of the research equipment we use that run only on Windows.

            Overall, GNU/linux users are still a minority of course. But I find it more common in Berlin than other cities I’ve been or lived in.

  • What about the new chromebooks from Samsung? D:

    • Alexander Sidorenko

      They are superb, I’m gonna buy one to my wife

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  • Biky Alex

    Just to be a little enthusiastic, how many people that buy Chromebooks install a Linux distribution on it? :)

    On the same subject, I like checking Steam Hardware and Software Surveys once or twice a year. Windows 10 dominates with 50% Steam users (all Windows versions 96% overall Steam users), Mac with 3% and Linux with 0.80%. This is a big number, considering not many people are gaming on Linux.

    • GizmoChicken

      In a post by one of the Chrome OS developers, he mentioned that, when developing, he runs Ubuntu on his Chromebook using Crouton. I haven’t tried Crouton yet, but maybe someday.

      • Biky Alex

        If I will ever buy a Chromebook (which I am kind of tempted), I will definitely use Crouton to install Ubuntu on it. I have seen a Chromebook live and was pretty impressed by how fast it was. But then again, if I take a similar priced laptop and add an SSD to it and a light distribution like Lubuntu or even Arch Linux with LXQT, it could do so much more without compromising speed. I don’t really like proprietary software (Chrome OS is no different), but I do use some and pretty often.

        I don’t know much about chromebooks, but if I could, I’d wipe Chrome OS and install Chromium OS.

  • Anyyzen

    Chrome os will never surpass windows because people cannot install by yourself

    • Regular users don’t want to install an OS themselves!

      • Alexander Sidorenko

        true :) people want ‘it just works’ effect


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    • Same for macOS, iOS, Android, Windows Phone….

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    • PaulAndrewAnderson

      Its called the Chrome Recovery Utility (free) in the Web Store. What makes Chromebooks unique from any proprietary OS, is that a unit owner (I’ve got 2) can reinstall the OS for free in 20 minutes anytime. I did so already when I bought one that was not functioning properly upon arrival; rather than returning it I simply reinstalled the OS and it still works flawlessly to this day, nearly a year later. With all proprietary OS, especially Windows, you must have a valid registered key to install or reinstall the OS; not so with Chromebooks. I also use Linux Mint 18 on my Intel NUC PC. Mint is the most downloaded free OS in the Linux kernel market (excluding Chromebooks of course). My older laptop was Win 7; I took the free upgrade to Win 10. After 9 months of that debacle, I pulled that HDD and installed a new SSD, and loaded it with a Linus Distro. I took the HDD with Win 10 on it, and wiped it clean; reformatted for Linux, it’s now used as an external storage via a USB cable tether. But it is true; since the vast majority of people can only use electronics, they are better off buying proprietary systems, and why they will always have the market-share. Computers are too complex for most people; that’s why smartphones became so vastly popular; they’re push-n-play.

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  • Civic

    I’m sure interest in Linux is growing for one of the same reasons I want to switch to a Chrome OS and have been looking at Remix OS, Windows 10 is a horrible experience. I’m sure I am not the only person who is sick of Windows changing my settings or starting up automatically apps that I have shut down and do not want running. And the real kicker is for most of the things I do I prefer Google’s apps to Microsoft’s but Windows doesn’t play nicely with Google apps so I’d rather an OS that works well with Google apps. Microsoft can’t even build a Mail app that functions as you would expect.

    That’s my take, people have had enough of Windows not working and the terrible quality Microsoft delivers in apps, the only reason I still have Windows is games. For everything else I realise that my life would be better with a Google OS on running on decent hardware and I tend to think that if the hardware side of things improve the games issue won’t be an issue anymore either and we would see more professional support. Just look at Apple, plenty of professionals use it and the hardware is overpriced crap.

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  • To say that Chrome OS has doubled Linux market share on its own in such a short time with respect to how long GNU/Linux Distributions have existed, this is surely a feat to say the least.

    And technically, Chrome OS, as stated, is highly customized Gentoo Linux. But it is still that. It is its own OS that looks and feels nothing like Gentoo, but IMHO it cannot really be denied being called part of the Linux market simply because of intended user experience differing from the Linux norm. With developer mode on enabling shell access and especially with a desktop environment installed in a chroot (look up crouton for example), it’s that easily become the Linux I know and love, on an Intel Chromebook.

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