The usage share of operating systems is the percentage of computing devices that run each operating system (OS) at any particular time. All such figures are necessarily estimates because data about operating system share is difficult to obtain.
There are few reliable primary sources and no agreed methodologies for its collection. Operating systems are used in numerous device types, from embedded devices without a screen through to supercomputers.
Taken together, the various versions of Microsoft Windows make up the majority of users in most countries, with exceptions including Mac OS X in the Apple ecosystem and Linux distributions used on servers and Android running on smartphones and tablets.
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In 2011, the three most popular desktop/laptop operating systems were, by units shipped:
- Windows 7 with 41.38%
- Windows XP with 41.36%
- Windows Vista with 5%
There are few reliable sources of data on operating system market share, but the most common metrics are:
- Usage share or installed base.
- Unit shipments or sales.
- Web usage share or Internet hit rate.
These metrics may measure different things: market share versus the active installed base of devices running a certain OS; new versus old OS versions; commercial versus free OSes; and so forth. An OS’s usage share is generally smaller than its market share, because some devices run more than one OS. For example, most smartphones sold today in Western markets have both Android and iOS, with only a minority having a third-party OS such as Windows Phone, Tizen or Firefox OS.
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The most-used operating system in the world is Android which uses the Linux kernel. According to StatCounter, it Android had 42% of the global market share as of November 20, 2022. The Windows OS comes in second place with a 30% share. Apple iOS and macOS are next two most-used operating systems with 18% and 6% shares. Those three combine for 76% of the market. The fourth-largest operating system is Linux, using the same kernel as Android. It has 1.0% of the market share.
|Operating System||Features||Platform||Security||Why to Use|
|Windows||User-friendly interface, compatibility with a wide range of hardware and software, support for multiple languages and regions, included Office suite||Desktop and laptop computers, tablets||Built-in security features like Windows Defender, regular security updates, support for third-party antivirus software||Ideal for personal and professional use, widely used in businesses, good for gaming|
|macOS||Sleek and intuitive design, tight integration with Apple hardware, advanced security features, integrated virtual assistant Siri||Mac computers||Strong security features such as Gatekeeper to block malware, automatic software updates, encrypted storage||Ideal for creative professionals and Mac fans, good for security-conscious users|
|Linux||Open-source, customizable, runs smoothly on older hardware, large repository of free software, minimal system requirements||Desktop, laptop, servers, embedded systems||Highly secure due to its open-source nature, less susceptible to viruses, fast patching of vulnerabilities||Ideal for developers, tech enthusiasts, cost-conscious users, good for server and web hosting|
|Chrome OS||Fast, lightweight, low system requirements, automatic software updates, integrates with Google services||Chromebook laptops||Strong security features, automatic software updates, verified boot process||Ideal for students and budget-conscious users, good for web-based computing and light productivity tasks|
|Android||Open-source, customizable, wide range of device support, integration with Google services, app ecosystem||Smartphones, tablets, televisions, and in-car entertainment systems||Regular security updates, granular app permissions, Google Play Protect to scan apps for malware||Ideal for smartphone and tablet users, good for those who rely heavily on Google services and apps|
|iOS||User-friendly interface, tight integration with Apple hardware, advanced security features, app store with a wide range of high-quality apps||iPhones and iPads||Strong security features, automatic software updates, encrypted storage, strict app review process||Ideal for Apple fans, security-conscious users, those who prioritize a streamlined and high-quality app ecosystem|
Android, an operating system using the Linux kernel and developed by Google, has become the most popular operating system in use today. Android is a mobile operating system (OS) which uses the Linux kernel; it’s used on smartphones and tablet computers.
Android was first released in September 2008 and its popularity rapidly increased with the advent of smartphones that used Android as their OS. By 2014, Android had become the world’s most-used smartphone OS, before overtaking the entirety of desktop computers for the first time in 2018. As of November 2022, Android is available on over 2.5 billion devices worldwide.
It’s not surprising that Android has been so successful: it offers a wide variety of applications and can be adapted to fit almost any kind of device. The vast number of applications available through Google Play makes choosing an application for your needs a breeze; you can even download applications designed for other OSs if you find what you need there! The flexibility of Android means that you’re never tied down to only one platform: if you get tired of using your phone or tablet computer, you can just put it aside and keep using your laptop computer or desktop computer until you find something better suited to your needs!
According to NetMarketShare, Windows is the most popular operating system for desktop and laptop computers at 76%, followed by Apple’s macOS at 16%. Windows has been the most common operating system since its release in 1985. Microsoft released its first version of Windows, titled simply “Windows 1.0” in November 1985. The product was a modified graphical shell for MS-DOS, a popular language at the time used to run programs on personal computers. The success of Windows led to several updated versions, including “Windows 2.0” in 1987, “Windows 3.0” in 1990, and “Windows 95” (or “Windows 95 OSR2”) in 1995.
Despite its dominance as the most used operating system, Windows has experienced several steep declines over the years. During the late-1990s and early-2000s, several competitors emerged with their own takes on the operating system concept: Apple introduced Mac OS X 10.0 in 1999; Linux debuted as an open-source alternative in late-1991; and Google introduced Chrome OS in 2009 as yet another alternative to traditional operating systems. However, despite these challenges from different platforms, Windows’ market share has remained relatively consistent over time with approximately 75% of worldwide personal computer users.
3. Apple iOS
iOS is a mobile operating system created and developed by Apple Inc. It is the operating system that presently powers many of the company’s mobile devices, including the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. iOS was announced on January 9, 2007 at the Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco by Steve Jobs, who unveiled the iPhone to the public.
iOS was designed primarily for touchscreen mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad. It has been extended to support other Apple devices such as the iPod Touch (4th generation onward), allowing them to operate in many of the same ways as iPhone applications do.
The user interface of iOS is based upon direct manipulation, using multi-touch gestures. Interface control elements consist of sliders, switches, and buttons. Interaction with the OS includes gestures such as tap, swipe, tap-and-hold, flick and pinch, all of which have specific definitions within the context of the iOS. Internal accelerometers are used by some applications to respond to shaking the device (one common result is the undo command) or rotating it in three dimensions (one common result is switching between portrait and landscape mode).
It’s no secret that Apple’s iOS operating system is the most popular of all today. Its market share has reached a whopping 28% in recent years, which is more than double the 11% it held in 2012. In fact, Apple’s mobile devices are so popular that the company has managed to hold this niche for years and years.
The latest figures from NetMarketShare show that macOS has 16.3% market share, which is a little under half of the total operating systems running out there. The bulk of the remaining share is split between Windows and Linux, with Microsoft’s OS commanding the largest chunk at 49.8%, followed by Linux at 2%. The Mac OS had a widely reported surge in popularity back in 2002, when it jumped from 4% up to 9.8%. The brief period of 9 years that followed saw a slow but steady drop, reaching just 6.7% by 2008, which was its lowest point since 1996.
Apple had just announced plans for their first ever touchscreen iPhone and began a period of incredibly rapid growth that saw it climb to 10.6% by 2010 before dipping again to 8% in 2013, where it’s been ever since. This new figure of 16.3% represents a four-year high for Apple and is part of an ongoing trend in which the company has been increasing its market share at roughly 0.4% per quarter for the last several years.
5. Chrome OS