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Animated: Most Popular Desktop Operating Systems Since 2003

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The Most Popular Desktop Operating Systems Since 2003

Mobile phones might be the most common way of getting online today, but the digital and internet era started for most people with the humble desktop computer.

And over the past 20 years, a long list of operating systems (OS) have been used to run the most popular desktop computers.

Sjoerd Tilmans has created an animated chart showing the rise and fall in market share of popular desktop operating systems over the period of May 2003 to June 2022, using data from W3Schools and GS Stat Counter.

Microsoft’s Monopoly on the Most Popular Desktop OS

The story of the desktop OS market is a story of Microsoft’s explosive growth and market dominance.

In the 1980s, the fledgling company signed a partnership with personal computer behemoth IBM. Microsoft would supply IBM with an operating system for its computers, MS-DOS, and receive a royalty for every computer sold.

Those royalties boosted Microsoft’s coffers. And its release of Windows—a more visual interface than DOS—helped them grab hold of the PC market. The late 1990s and early 2000s saw different versions of Windows capture the market:

  • Windows 95:
    The now famous toolbar and Start menu made their debut here. The version also would launch Internet Explorer, once the world’s most popular browser.
  • Windows 98:
    An upgrade to ‘95 which supported more hardware like USBs and connecting more than one monitor.
  • Windows XP:
    XP quickly became a fan-favorite because of its stability, and a hit with both commercial and personal computer clients. Windows XP gained market share steadily upon release in 2001, quickly becoming the most popular desktop OS with a peak of 76% market share in 2007.
Operating SystemPeak Market ShareYear
Win 9557.4%1998
Win 9817.2%1999
Win XP76.1%2006

Microsoft doubled down on their next releases from the end of the 2000s to 2020, with some misses (Windows Vista) and some hits (Windows 10). Here’s a look at the most popular ones:

  • Windows 7:
    Released as the successor to the poorly received Windows Vista, it kept the same visual style (“Aero”) but greatly improved performance and stability from Vista’s benchmarks. In 2011, Windows 7 passed XP to become the most popular desktop OS.
  • Windows 8 and 8.1:
    Created for tablet-desktop integration, just as Microsoft released the companion Surface tablet. The beloved Start menu was replaced (an unpopular decision) and tile-based visual style introduced. However the dramatic differences between the desktop and tablet versions made for a steep learning curve, with the 8.1 release reintroducing the Start button.
  • Windows 10:
    The follow-up to Windows 8 kept the the tile-based appearance but focused on a desktop-oriented interface with quality of life updates. By 2018, Windows 10 had become the most popular desktop OS, eventually peaking at 61% market share at the start of 2022.
DatePeak Market ShareYear
Win 755.1%2014
Win 88.1%2013
Win 8.116.8%2015
Win 1061.2%2022

The most recent version of Windows released, Windows 11, had updated graphics styling, widget integration, and introduced Microsoft’s latest internet browser Microsoft Edge. But it received a mixed response and slow uptake compared to Windows 10, gaining a market share of 8.3% by June 2022.

Microsoft Vs. Other Desktop OS Contenders

As of February 2023, Microsoft had a comfortable lead in the desktop OS market, holding nearly 72% of the market.

CompanyOS NameFeb, 2023 Market Share
MicrosoftWindows72.0%
ApplemacOS16.3%
OpenSourceLinux2.9%
GoogleChromeOS2.9%
UnknownUnknown6.0%

In a distant second is Apple’s macOS. The most profitable company in the world might make most of their money from smartphones, but Apple has still managed to carve out a small but sturdy segment of the desktop operating OS market. It reached its peak of 19% in April 2020.

The other tech giant in the desktop OS game is Alphabet, whose ChromeOS is unique for using an internet browser (Google Chrome browser) as its primary interface. Generally packaged as a simpler and cheaper device option—it was primarily released with inexpensive laptops called “Chromebooks”. More recently, Alphabet announced a version that can be installed on existing computer hardware in 2022.

Compared to the commercially released OS above, Linux is completely free to download and use, and is the largest open-source software project in the world. Although the OS is only used in about 3% of desktop computers, it was also the basis of Android and ChromeOS, and is the most-used OS on devices with embedded software—routers, smart home devices, cars, and even a few spacecraft (The SpaceX Falcon 9, for example).

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Where are Immigrant Founders of U.S. Unicorns From?

The majority of billion-dollar startups in the U.S. have at least one immigrant founder. Here is where those founders are from.

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u.s. startup founders from other countries

Where are Immigrant Founders of U.S. Unicorns From?

The majority of U.S. unicorns—private startups worth more than $1 billion—have at least one immigrant founder, according to the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP).

While some of the companies and founders are well known, like SpaceX from South Africa’s Elon Musk, hundreds of lesser-known unicorns have been founded from the top talent of just a handful of countries.

This visual using NFAP data lays out the countries which are home to the most U.S. billion-dollar startup founders as of May 2022.

Note: These rankings are based on unicorn valuations as of May 2022. As valuations regularly fluctuate, some companies may have gained or lost unicorn status since that time.

Countries with the Most U.S. Unicorn Founders

Here’s a look at the countries that these immigrant founders come from.

The 382 founders accounted for below have combined to start 319 of 582 U.S.-based unicorns.

RankCountry# Founders of
U.S. Unicorns
1🇮🇳 India66
2🇮🇱 Israel54
3🇬🇧 United Kingdom27
4🇨🇦 Canada22
5🇨🇳 China21
6🇫🇷 France18
7🇩🇪 Germany15
8🇷🇺 Russia11
9🇺🇦 Ukraine10
10🇮🇷 Iran8
11🇦🇺 Australia7
T12🇮🇹 Italy6
T12🇳🇬 Nigeria6
T12🇵🇱 Poland6
T12🇷🇴 Romania6
T16🇦🇷 Argentina5
T16🇧🇷 Brazil5
T16🇳🇿 New Zealand5
T16🇵🇰 Pakistan5
T16🇰🇷 South Korea5
T21🇩🇰 Denmark4
T21🇵🇹 Portugal4
T21🇪🇸 Spain4
T24🇧🇾 Belarus3
T24🇧🇬 Bulgaria3
T24🇮🇪 Ireland3
T24🇰🇪 Kenya3
T24🇱🇧 Lebanon3
T24🇵🇭 Philippines3
T24🇿🇦 South Africa3
T24🇹🇼 Taiwan3
T24🇹🇷 Turkey3
T33🇦🇲 Armenia2
T33🇨🇿 Czech Republic2
T33🇬🇷 Greece2
T33🇲🇽 Mexico2
T33🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia2
T33🇸🇬 Singapore2
T33🇨🇭 Switzerland2
T33🇺🇿 Uzbekistan2
T41🇦🇹 Austria1
T41🇧🇩 Bangladesh1
T41🇧🇧 Barbados1
T41🇨🇴 Colombia1
T41🇩🇴 Dominican Republic1
T41🇪🇬 Egypt1
T33🇬🇪 Georgia1
T41🇮🇶 Iraq1
T41🇯🇴 Jordan1
T41🇱🇻 Latvia1
T41🇱🇹 Lithuania1
T41🇲🇹 Malta1
T41🇲🇦 Morocco1
T41🇳🇱 Netherlands1
T41🇳🇴 Norway1
T41🇵🇪 Peru1
T41🇶🇦 Qatar1
T41🇸🇮 Slovenia1
T41🇻🇪 Venezuela1

Far in the lead is India with 66 startup founders and Israel with 54 startup founders. Together, they account for 31% of all unicorn founders listed. In fact, more than half of the immigrant unicorn founders came from just six countries: India, Israel, the UK, Canada, China, and France.

These immigrant founders have helped found many of the world’s biggest startups:

  • Stripe was co-founded by Irish brothers Patrick and John Collison
  • Instacart’s founder and former CEO, Apoorva Mehta, was born in India, then moved to Libya and Canada as a child.
  • Big data startup Databricks was founded by a group of seven computer scientists from the University of California, including five immigrants from Iran, Romania, and China.
  • Immigration and Entrepreneurship

    Though some of these founders came to the U.S. as successful business leaders, the report noted that many immigrated as children or international students.

    In addition, there are another 51 founders (not included in the above statistics) that were not immigrants themselves but are first-generation Americans born to immigrant parents. Data from the report also shows that 80% of unicorns have an immigrant in some key role, whether it’s as a founder, a C-level executive, or some other crucial position.

    Even historically, some of the biggest companies in the U.S. were not founded by Americans. For example, the founders of Procter & Gamble emigrated from England and Ireland in the early 1800s. And today, one of the biggest companies in the U.S. is NVIDIA, which recently broached a trillion dollar market cap and whose founder is from Taiwan.

    The Ever-Changing Unicorn Landscape

    While this dataset is from mid-2022, it should be noted that the startup ecosystem has shifted drastically in just the last year.

    Rapidly rising interest rates and a slowdown in venture capital have conspired to create a more precarious fundraising environment, leading to down rounds and stagnation for some of these billion-dollar companies.

    In Q1 2023, unicorn births declined 89%, suggesting that in upcoming years the unicorn list—and the number of immigrant founders—may be subject to change.

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