According to market researcher IDC, Microsoft's family of Windows operating systems will continue to dominate the desktop market for the foreseeable future, leaving erstwhile competitors Linux and the Mac OS with but a pittance. Indeed, IDC notes that growth of Windows NT Workstation grew by $1.6 billion in 1999, besting the overall market grow, which was $1.53 billion. But more tellingly, says IDC, is that excitement over Linux hasn't translated into actual usage: Linux commanded only $36.9 million of the desktop market in 1999.

"Undoubtedly, there is a lot of excitement surrounding Linux, but so far this technology has failed to ignite a broad revolution against the Microsoft-dominated desktop world," says Al Gillen, the research manager for IDC's System Software research. "Revenues from sales of Linux remain a single droplet compared with the sea of cash that the Windows COE products generate."

According to IDC, Windows owns a lock on the desktop market, and it won't relinquish that dominance through 2004 at least. Instead, different versions of Windows will interchange the lead, with Windows 2000 expected to be the growth leader this year. And though Linux desktop usage will triple between now and 2004, according to IDC, it won't be enough to shave but a percentage point or two off of Windows' lead. The Mac OS, which has seen a slight increase due to last year's popularity of the iMac, isn't expected to gain much either because of a decade-long downturn that preceded the iMac. And iMac sales in 2000 are already off dramatically when compared to the year before. "Apple probably won't be able to make up all the ground it lost in the past decade," Gillan says