Despite more than half a decade of hype, an undeserved level of press coverage, and unsubstantiated claims about the product's superiority to Windows and other OSs, open-source poster child Linux saw its market shrink last year, according to reports by market researchers International Data Corporation (IDC) and NPD INTELECT. According to the IDC report, Linux-generated revenue shrank 5 percent in 2001, the first time the fledgling OS has seen its market contract. A similar NPD INTELECT report says that the Linux market shrank 10.2 percent last year.

"The previously strong growth of Linux \[server\] shipments was interrupted during 2001," said Al Gillen, IDC's research director of system software. "\[But\] we also saw China's Red Flag and Brazil's Conectiva make strong contributions to the Linux \[desktop\] market, which continued to grow at a healthy pace." Of course, with approximately 0.5 percent of the desktop market, it's not hard for the Linux desktop to grow. In the more entrenched server space, Linux commands almost 30 percent of the market. But with Windows Server and UNIX servers now firmly entrenched on the high end of the server market, it's unclear whether Linux can make much more headway.

Interestingly, Linux wasn't the only operating environment to have a tough time last year. Aside from Microsoft's blockbuster Windows XP release, which sold a record 46 million licenses in its first 9 months of availability, all operating environments experienced negative revenue growth in 2001, IDC says.