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The fastest growing OS maker is... Red Hat

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It doesn't take any insight at all – or the analysts at Gartner – to figure out which operating system supplier is the largest. It's Microsoft, of course. But which ones are numbers two, three, and four? And which is the fastest-growing maker of operating systems? The answers might surprise you.

Through the magic of the acquisition of Sun Microsystems last January, Oracle was able to grow its operating system revenues by 7,683 per cent, to $780m, making it the fastest grower. Of course, Oracle had only a tiny OS business, selling a clone of Red Hat's Enterprise Linux. Gartner said that year-on-year, Solaris revenues fell by 3.2 per cent between 2009 and 2010. That said, Oracle's Unbreakable Linux had almost 200 per cent growth in 2010, showing that having your own integrated stack can indeed pay off.

The fastest real growth in operating sales in 2010 came not from Apple, but from Red Hat.

The commercial Linux distributor grew its operating system revenues by 18 per cent, to $610m last year, and Apple did almost as well, with 15.8 per cent growth to $520m. Almost all of Red Hat's operating system sales are on servers – in 2010, that was $592m, up 18.5 per cent – while almost all of Apple's are on PCs, tablets, and smartphones. (Or iMacs, MacBooks, iPads, and iPhones, if you speak Jobs-ish.) Gartner is only counting Mac OS PC (iMac, MacBooks, Mac Pro, Mac Mini) and a thin amount of Mac OS X Server sales in this data. Red Hat had a 58.2 per cent share of Linux operating system sales (which is all support revenue, of course).

IBM, you no doubt already figured out, was the number two provider of operating systems in 2010, with $2.28bn in revenues, up only 5.6 per cent. Gartner said that sales of AIX rose by 9.2 per cent in 2010, while IBM rose only 2.7 per cent.

IBM was considerably ahead of Hewlett-Packard, which had $1.13bn in operating system revenues and an increase of only 1.4 per cent compared to 2009. HP-UX had 3.7 per cent growth last year, but Tru64, OpenVMS, and NonStop shrank.

Other vendors together had another $1.18bn in sales and shrank 39.9 per cent.

That, of course, leaves Microsoft, with its $23.85bn in operating system sales in 2010, up 8.8 per cent and giving the Giant of Redmond a 78.6 per cent share of the market and nearly another point of market share than it had in 2009. Gartner did not say how the Windows stack broke down PC versus server, but did say that the upgrade cycle from Windows XP to Windows 7 helped Microsoft fuel 9.2 per cent operating system growth in 2010, while server-related OS sales rose 7.5 per cent.

Across all operating system types, server operating systems saw a 5.7 per cent bump in 2010, while desktop OS revenues rose 9.3 per cent. ®

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