I started using Linux around 1997-98, it was RedhHat 5.x at the time. Until I had the chance to try out Linux I was running Windows NT on our servers to provide database and web service, Windows 98 was on the desktop, and to be honest, I was quite happy with what I could do with the system, simple web page with FrontPage, simple database with FoxPro, database driven web site served by Apache with Perl run-time from ActiveState on windows, and all these worked pretty well. Then I had the chance to build a bulletin board system for local university community, I had to compile the code(written in C) on a Linux system, that was the first time I ever tried Linux, and it was on server, not on desktop. I enjoyed working on Linux system, even it was considered not too user friendly at the time(the GUI was rough and basic), but it was so powerful on the server, I was totally hooked. Late I put RedHat on my desktop, in one week there was no more Windows for me.
Since I am a developer and a system administrator it was easy for me to appreciate the power and freedom of Linux, for Joe users it wasn’t that easy and clear cut. In the 90′s you had to configure X window manually, the user interface was pretty primitive, I never tried to recommend Linux to my friends and colleagues, if I did I was looking for trouble. Fast forward to 21st century, in the last a few years Linux had been improved to a point that Joe users actually could appreciate the power and benefits of Linux, some of the benefits we all know are virtually virus free, malware free, no spyware as long as users follow the basic security rules(don’t login as root being the most important one). And the ease of installation of Linux becomes one of the most touted features.
But people keep using Windows. Someone may say that more and more people are using Linux or Mac, and quite some people use China as an example, saying that people there are using Linux more and more, I will have to say all these maybe true, but in reality people are still using Windows. Let’s look at the Linux usage in China, there is an easy way to determine the percentage, people there use qq, which is an instant messaging system only runs on Windows, to communicate with each other, they even integrated the email system, so people don’t need separate email software to receive and send emails. The young generation is all using qq in some way, dedicated or casually, it becomes part of their life style, and the young generation represents most of the internet users in China, all these people are running Windows for sure; The older generation are worse in this regard, they hardly know anything other than Windows, because in China there was no Unix tradition, people from 90′s only know Windows, maybe some know DOS, but that’s about it. So 95% Windows usage is a safe estimation, the 5% including university students, some government agencies, some other unexpected sources, even 99% is not too far fetched, as far as I know. And the government wants people to use Windows as well, because it’s easy for them to track the individual users as they see fit.
The world wide Linux usage maybe around 5-10% IMHO, if it is not weighted average. The western world has higher percentage because people there know better, especially when it comes to computers and freedom, the proof is that almost all free/open software projects originated from Western, China probably has more computer users than US has, but there are almost no free/open projects originated from Chinese development community.
Now we see most people are still using Windows even Linux has matured vastly lately, and quite some people understand the advantages of using Linux, there must be some reasons behind this phenomena. Of course the first one and also the most cited one is that MS still has the control of hardware manufacturers/vendors, and has monopoly on desktop, the Windows pre-installation is still the only game in town(in large scale). Many people believe this is the major reason why people are still using Windows despite it’s security nightmare.
There are also some other reasons why people keep using windows, such as commercial games availability, essential apps only run on windows, etc., but I believe all these are not the driving forces. To me the reason is very simple, a lot of people grow up with Windows, and they see Windows every where, and they perceive Windows as computers. People are stubborn, they intend to hold onto their own ideas, bad or not, people just don’t care, they just want it, that’s the force driving people. Day to day life is already enough for most people, they just want it at the end of day, be it to just get the job done, to just feel good, or not to be different than your fellows. The status quo won’t be changed until there is something dramatic happens.
It’s just as simple as it is.