In-depth

The hunt for Windows alternatives

Google Chrome OS is the highest profile attempt to unseat Windows in some time. Simon looks at the growing hunt for mass-market Windows alternatives.

Whereas the price of components and peripherals in the IT market has been open to many fluctuations over the years, one part of a computer purchase has remained pretty steadfast in price: the operating system.

Specifically, the Windows operating system, which may have seen some mild price variance over the past decade, but on a per-seat basis, it's still one of the more significant parts of a desktop or laptop purchase. Furthermore, in corporate environments, the software licence bill is something IT managers remain keen to tackle, even if it's not always clear how they can. And the Windows column on the spreadsheet is usually a sizeable one.

But could we finally, after pretty much two decades of dominance, be seeing the first signs of frailty for the Windows operating system? Could the thirst to find an alternative that can be rolled out in big numbers be stronger than it's ever been? Or is Windows' position so cemented, that its stranglehold simply can't be broken?

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It's certainly some way from being toppled. The current figures from Net Applications suggest that Windows has 91.46 per cent of the operating system market, with Mac OS in second place with just 5.16 per cent. Linux is at 1.07 per cent, and the rest is primarily made up of mobile phone operating systems and such like. It's fairly safe to read from that that even if a popular viable alternative came along a Firefox to Internet Explorer, if you will then it's going to take at least a decade for Windows' market share to erode to a point where a competitor could catch it.

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