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Do you know some source that has statistics/estimations about this?

Any sound guesses?

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closed as not constructive by Doug Harris, MDMarra, Sathya, quack quixote May 27 '10 at 19:54

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What do you mean by computer? PC only, or you include servers and embedded systems? – bandi May 27 '10 at 15:15
when I posted the question, I was thinking of PC's and servers... – Lazer May 27 '10 at 15:23
up vote 2 down vote accepted

A rough survey from Wikipedia reference: Usage share of operating systems.
You might find that entire page a good read to locate stat-data that matches your requirement most closely.

The following information on web clients is obtained from the User agent information supplied to web servers by web browsers. This is an inexact science for a variety of reasons.

alt text

That wiki page covers several groups,

  1. Desktop and laptop computers
  2. Web clients -- the above reference comes from here
  3. Netbooks
  4. Mobile devices
  5. Servers
    • Server market share can be measured by two methods - market share by revenue or market share by units. For example, according to IDC, Unix shipped only 4.4% of total server units in Q4 2009, but accounted for 29.9% of revenue at the same time.
    • Netcraft survey in January 2009 checked 1,014,301 publicly accessible Web servers with valid SSL certificates.
  6. Mainframes
  7. Supercomputers
    • The November 2009 figures show Linux in the lead at 89.2%, followed by IBM AIX at 4.4%, Microsoft Windows HPC Server 2008 at 1.0% and OpenSolaris at 0.4%

Most actually suggest a lower percentage for *nix.
However, I think, Ubuntu and some other distributions are set to change that landscape.

A recent news reference that might be of interest:
Andalusia deploys 220,000 Ubuntu desktops in schools throughout the region

Isotrol and Canonical's Premium Service Engineer (PSE) support service delivers an improved learning experience to 600,000 students in Andalusia, Spain.

There is more news from where this comes (like Wikimedia chooses Ubuntu for all of its servers)

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I would argue that the Unix\Linux share would be higher. Only a bad sysadmin is web browsing on a server, so using a browser user agent to collect this data is incomplete. – MDMarra May 27 '10 at 16:01
@MarkM, maybe you have not checked the wiki page completely. The Web client trend is only part of the data. The first link in the Wiki Reference list is to the MarketShare site also referred in other answers here. The Wikipedia page is a comprehensive reference. I highlighted the web-client part since that seemed to suit the question most. – nik May 27 '10 at 16:16
I see now. That wasn't apparent from the original answer. – MDMarra May 27 '10 at 18:15

Well, around 7% of the world's web surfing happens on Unix-based OSes, according to That's 5.3% Mac OS X, 1% Linux, and smaller fractions for things like iPhone OS.

To answer your question more precisely, you'll have to define "computers" and "*nix".

Most people would probably count desktop and laptop personal computers, high-end workstations and servers running full versions of Linux, the BSDs (including Mac OS X), Solaris, and a few other OSes. But what about smartphones? routers? DVRs? What about the purpose-built blades that Google's data centers are built on?

If I have a Linksys box whose embedded OS is Linux-based, is it a "computer"? If the OS image is stripped down for size and doesn't contain all the binaries that would be necessary for full POSIX compliance, is it still "*nix"? If it doesn't provide shell access, does it still fit your definition of "*nix"?

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Generally speaking *nix is used to mean Unix-like, which doesn't need to be POSIX compliant, it just needs to share a common ancestry with Unix. Most Linux distros are not certified as POSIX compliant, but are certainly considered *nix. If someone is looking for POSIX compliance, they use Unix and not *nix since POSIX compliance makes it Unix. – MDMarra May 27 '10 at 15:33

It'll depend a lot on what you mean by "computer." For instance, most DSL modems, consumer-grade routers (at least; I don't know the commercial market there), PVR boxes, digital TV set-top boxes, "hardware" load balancers, et. al. are computers running the Linux kernel in one form or another.

Net Applications tracks OS usage (here), but the majority of the above (and servers) will be left out of that because they gather this information from web surfers. :-) So that's more of a "what percentage of computers used to surf web sites [of Net Applications' customers] are *nix based" than anything.

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I don't have figures, but PCs Vs servers is a huge difference. For instance on web-servers, I believe *nix is in the majority.

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