While Microsoft rules the desktop operating system environment for small and midsized businesses in the United States, Linux is gaining more traction as an alternative to Windows in enterprises such as Boeing and UPS, and in countries such as Germany and Spain, according to research by consulting firm Yankee Group.

The majority of the more than 73 percent of small and midsized businesses (those with fewer than 500 employees) that bought new laptops or desktops in 2003 opted for Windows, and more than 93 percent of SMBs run the majority of their company's computers on a version of the Windows operating system, according to Yankee Group.

Most SMBs still run the bulk of their computers mainly on Microsoft 2000, 98 or even NT, according to the Yankee Group 2003 SMB Infrastructure Survey. Fewer than 46 percent of SMBs run on Windows XP, while more than 25 percent continue to run most computers on Windows 98 or older versions. Among MBs, 11 percent run on Microsoft NT, while another 2 percent still run on Windows 95.

However, Yankee Group said that more than 70 percent of SMBs with 20 or more employees will have migrated to Windows XP in 12 or more months, with most of the upgrades among SMBs moving from 2000 to XP. Most current Windows 98 users will have migrated by November of this year. In the less-than-20-employees segment, only 57 percent will be on XP in 12 or more months.

While less than 1 percent of SMBs run Linux on the desktop, 3 percent to 5 percent (depending on size segment) intend to run Linux at the desktop for the majority of their computers in the next six to 12 months. Looking more than 12 months out, Yankee Group said that the intent grows to 4 percent to 10 percent, with the less-than-20-employees segment leading the way. Meanwhile, while it failed to reach broad appeal, Mac OS maintains a small but loyal market SMB segment, with 6 percent of smaller SMBs (mainly graphic design, architecture and digital media companies) continuing to run on Mac OS. This operating system has minimal attraction in the more-than-20-employees segment, with only 1 percent penetration, according to Yankee Group.

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