Welcome to the World of Free Software. We at PC Pitstop have a very unique view on free software because we test so many PC’s every day! As I have already documented, I love free software. Not because of the price tag, but because in many instances, the free software is superior to its capitalistic competitors.
It’s a fine line for a software company, but most freeware entities spend almost all of their activity and money on development. Balance that against a more typical company that spends money on marketing, distribution, OEM partners, etc.
That’s the free software dilemma. At times, free software is a superior product with poor awareness and hence poor acceptance. I believe that everyone wants great free software, they just don’t know about it.
Hopefully, we at PC Pitstop can shed a little more light on the world of free software through this report. We will update the reports quarterly, and take whatever suggestions you might want to give.
At PC Pitstop, we have visibility on the number of PCs that have each software installed. Then we divide that number by the total universe of PCs installed to calculate the attach rate. The attach rate it the % of PC’s that have the software installed on their PC. That’s our basic methodology.
Here’s our first stab at the top 6 free software applications.
Paint.net (1.5% of PC’s) Graphics
I was really disappointed to see Paint.net at only 1.5% of PC’s. I use this program almost every day. There is a learning curve to do some basic functions such as cropping a photo but this is offset by the enormous functionality of the product. Paint.net, similar to many of its free software brethren, has a robust plug-in architecture, which enables a multitude of 3rd party developers to enhance the functionality of the product. I was blown away at the number of plug ins to manipulate photos and graphics. The strange thing is that American acceptance lags behind all other parts of the world. Hopefully, through this article, Paint.net will get more recognition for being one of the best graphics packages out there. More Paint.net analysis here.
Thunderbird (3.5% of PC’s) Email
Thunderbird is made by the Mozilla foundation, the same visionaries that brought us the Firefox browser. Unlike Firefox, Thunderbird usage is quite small and its attach rate is essentially a plateau. This is not good. A flat attach rate indicates that people are uninstalling the software at the same rate as people are installing. Personally, I love Thunderbird (although it certainly has its quirks), and it beats the pants out of Outlook Express or Outlook. But there is a huge hinderance to Thunderbird’s market acceptance, and that is the internet. Yahoo, Gmail and Hotmail have been rapidly increasing the storage space that their online applications consume. Over time, these free in-the-cloud applications pose a serious threat to the adoption of Thunderbird. We’ll keep an eye on it here are PC Pitstop. More Thunderbird analysis here.
Google Chrome (6.5% of PC’s) Web browser.
Google came out last year with yet another entry in the web browser world. Our research shows that Google quickly acquired over 5% share but they are not accelerating. It seems as if there was an initial adoption rush due to Google’s name recognition, but it still remains to be seen whether the browser gets any traction against Internet Explorer and Firefox.
Open Office (14% of PC’s) Business Productivity.
Here’s the news flash. Open Office is rocking. In the last 12 months, Open Office’s attach rate has more than tripled from a little over 4% to over 14%. This is not a mathematical anomaly either. Our data set represents millions and millions of PC’s, so 2008 can truly be considered the year of Open Office. At 14%, this has to be enough to give Microsoft some pause. Probably even more concerning to the Redmond boys is that business is taking up Open Office as well as home users. More Open Office analysis here.
AVG Anti Virus (26% of PC’s) Anti Virus.
A little company out of Czechoslavakia has become one of the largest anti virus providers in the world. At 26% of all PC’s tested at PC Pitstop worldwide, they are clearly in the big leagues in PC security. The only concern is that their growth seems to have peaked in the middle of last year. It is also not a big surprise that there is a huge gap between home and business users, since companies tend to want to pay for their security. Either way, it seems as if AVG is here to stay. More AVG analysis here.
Mozilla Firefox (35% of PC’s) Web browser.
Hat’s off to the king of free software, Mozilla Firefox. First a digression. It recently came out that Firefox had just risen above 20% of web browsers. Our number is quite above the public number, why? In my views, there are two reasons. First, PC Pitstop measures whether the application is installed. Logically, more people have it installed than actually are using it. Secondly, the number looks at all of the web population including Apple and Linux users. Another reason is that Apple users are less likely to use Firefox than Windows users. The Pitstop measure is only of Windows users.
Either way, Firefox is a huge home run. They came out with a technically superior architecture, and word spread like wild fire. Microsoft is still scrambling to catch up on functionality. More Firefox analysis here.
Please make all your comments below. We will read them and consider them for the next issue of The World of Free Software. Thanks for reading.