Microsoft Windows 7 remains on track to become the leading operating system (OS) in the PC market - running on approximately 42% of systems by the end of 2011.
"Steady improvements in IT budgets in 2010 and 2011 are helping to accelerate the deployment of Windows 7 in enterprise markets in the U.S. and Asia/Pacific, where Windows 7 migrations started in large volume from 4Q10," explained Gartner analyst Annette Jump.
"However, the economic uncertainties in Western Europe, political instability in selected Middle East and Africa (MEA) countries and the economic slowdown in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 will likely lead to slightly late and slow deployment for Windows 7 across those regions."
Interestingly enough, Gartner's forecast assumes Windows 7 is likely to be the last version of a Microsoft OS that is deployed via mega corporate-wide migrations. In the future, many organizations are expected to use alternative client computing architectures for standard PCs with Windows OS as they move towards a virtualization and cloud computing paradigm.
In other OS related news, shipments of Apple iMacs and Mac OS share on new PCs posted increases over the last 12 months. To be sure, Mac OS was shipped on 4% of new PCs worldwide in 2010 - versus 3.3% in 2008. As such, Cupertino's OS is forecast to be on 4.5% of PCs in 2011 and increase to some 5.2% of new PCs by 2015.
"The adoption of Mac PCs and Mac OS is a result of Apple's ability to grow well above the market average in the last 12 to 24 months," said Jump.
"[This can be attributed] to its ease of use from the user interface (UI) point of view and ease of integration with other Apple devices, such as the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and the existing Apple ecosystem of applications and programs."
Meanwhile, Linux is expected to remain a niche OS over the next five years with its share below 2%, due to the high costs of app migration from Windows to Linux. In the consumer market, Linux will run on less than 1% of PCs, as Linux's success with mini-notebooks was short-lived and few mini-notebooks are preloaded with it today.
Finally, Gartner analysts do not expect Chrome OS, Android or webOS to claim any significant market share on PCs over the next few years.
"To get any consideration as an alternative for a traditional PC, lighter OSs will first need to get strong positions on emerging client devices such as Web books and media tablets," she confirmed.
"Even then, it is unlikely that they will have any impact on Microsoft and Windows OS's hold on positions on traditional professional PCs in the time frame of the current forecast. This is because of application compatibility issues and the high proportion of Windows-specific apps within many enterprises."
Jump noted that only in 2012 will the market reach the point of crossover between Windows-specific and OS-agnostic applications for enterprises - as approximately 50% of apps are likely to be fall into an OS "neutral" category by then.
In the consumer space, the proportion of OS-agnostic applications is already above the Windows-specific applications, something which could help Chrome OS and Android make inroads into the lucrative market over the next three to five years.