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Developers cooling on Windows desktop, study finds

It's Linux, rather than the Web browser, that's stealing developer attention away from desktop Windows, according to Evans Data.

Maybe Microsoft's stronghold grip on the desktop is slipping after all.

But instead of the Web stealing away Windows users, as people have predicted for years, it's Linux and handheld devices.

According to an Evans Data study published on Tuesday, software developers are choosing to write applications for Windows deskop PCs less than they used to.

In a survey, Evans Data found that almost 65 percent of software developers are targeting some version of Windows for their applications, as opposed to nearly 75 percent last year. The research group expects the number to drop another 2 percent in the coming year.

The culprit? Linux. Developers are choosing to write applications for Linux desktops in almost 12 percent of cases, which is a 34 percent increase from last year.

"It's clear that a shift away (from) Windows began about two yeas ago, and the data show that this migration is now accelerating. Linux has benefited, but we also see corresponding growth in niche operating systems for non-traditional client devices. The landscape is changing," said Evans Data CEO John Andrews in a statement.

The popular notion among tech industry followers is that a more capable Web browser, able to run sophisticated applications either online or offline, will make the desktop operating system less important, if not irrelevant.

Many companies--even Microsoft--are taking up the idea of building a "Web, or cloud, operating system" for which developers can write online.

Even with more online applications, though, the Evans Data study notes that Windows desktop application development remains steady.

Other findings from its survey are that JavaScript--a language supported in modern browsers--is the most popular scripting language by far, with more than three times the number of users as PHP, Ruby or Python.

Also, virtualization is becoming commonplace, with about 42 percent of developers expecting to use the technology in the next year.

Update: the survey is completed twice a year on a voluntary basis by 400 software developers and is not sponsored by any software vendors.