Operating Systems: Market Shares since the 1970s
Looking at personal-use devices
Last updated: 2021
The below diagram shows the historical market shares of operating systems across personal devices (including smartphones), and the bottom shows the genealogy of the major operating systems. Many historical operating systems families are long dead, some other are somehow still alive but barely so (e.g. RISC OS, AmigaOS, Haiku/BeOS, ArcaOS/eComStation (OS/2)) or are not targetting the personal computing market anymore (e.g. Solaris, HP-UX, AIX, QNX, OpenVMS).
In some cases, OS names have been kept even though newer versions have not been based on the older versions at all. This includes Windows (versions up to Win 98 and Win ME based on MS-DOS, versions since Win 2000 based on NT), Blackberry OS (version 10 based on QNX), and macOS (version 10 based on the Unix-like Nextstep).
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Today there are only 3 major operating system families (Windows, Linux, Apple) and a few minor ones left. This is obviously ignoring the non-consumer systems, e.g. embedded systems or mainframes - for a full list see HERE
- Microsoft Windows NT (Windows 11).
- ("Windows" as a name has referred to three completely different technologies: the old MS-DOS based versions up to Windows ME, the modern NT-based versions including Windows 11 which originally were developed together with IBM's OS/2, and Windows CE which was the basis for older versions of Windows Mobile but now is only used for embedded devices)
ArcaOS, based on IBM's abandoned OS/2
- There are hundreds of GNU/Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, (Open)SUSE, Debian, Fedora/RHEL, Arch, Gentoo, Slackware, Mageia, Mint, and many more. There are also mobile GNU/Linux distributions, e.g. SailfishOS, Tizen (Samsung), PostmarketOS, PureOS, Ubports Ubuntu Touch, Plasma Mobile
- Google's Chrome OS is based on Gentoo, but otherwise doesn't have much in common with normal GNU/Linux distributions.
- Android, the most used operating system in the world, also uses the Linux kernel, but is otherwise very different from mainstream Linux distributions - and maybe Google will one day replace it with their new Fuchsia operating system
- KaiOS is another mobile Linux (forked from the dead FirefoxOS) which is popular in India and used on non-touchscreen semi-smartphones.
- Market share: Linux is still not very popular on the desktop (around 1-3%, plus another 1-2% for Google's Chrome OS that doesn't have much in common with standard GNU/Linux), but it is now the most widespread OS thanks to the success of Android on phones and tablets.
- Genetic or historical Unix
- Apple's macOS and its derivatives iOS and iPadOS.
- While macOS is a certificed "UNIX" system, some argue that these are not "real" Unix systems, for example because their XNU kernel is based on the Mach kernel and is not derived from a traditional Unix system.
- The BSDs
- Multiple full operating systems, including FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, and DragonflyBSD. There are also distributions (similar to Linux), for example GhostBSD is a desktop-oriented distribution of FreeBSD.
- The BSDs have removed all the original Unix code, so it's not clear whether or not you think they are still "Unix"
- "Commercial" UNIX, meaning systems derived from the original Unix System V code
- Surviving Unix systems are Solaris (Oracle), Illumos (open source Solaris fork with distributions such as OpenIndiana and SmartOS), as well as HP-UX, and AIX (IBM) (the latter two are mostly used on servers, although historically also on workstations).
- Mostly used in the embedded and automotive market now, since QNX-based BlackBerry 10 OS was discontinued
- Plan 9-derived systems