Mark Shuttleworth on Ubuntu and the Linux Desktop: Page 2

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But to get back to his question, is there a specific spearhead initiative that Ubuntu will be leading in the years ahead that will push itself forward and really dominate the desktop?

Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, has historically been very, very deferential to what we call our upstream communities – GNOME, KDE, and so on – in the definition of the desktop experience. Our view, very strongly, is that they hold the real expertise in defining that. And that, as a distribution, our primary job is to be a very efficient conductor of their good work into the hands of users. Which sometimes sounds like mooching, but in fact it’s a very significant and serious responsibility and implies a tremendous amount of work when it’s done well. And we sort of specialized in doing that, playing that role: we’re a conductor and our highest goal is to not get in the way.

Because we’ve increasingly been engaged in the definition of the desktop experience for some of these consumer electronics products, however, we’re now in a position to actually start engaging with those upstreams and investing in that desktop experience.

And so we started to build out a team that will focus on the specific user experiences that your reader is probably referring to, and our goal, very simply, is to make sure the Free software ecosystem can deliver a Mac OS-like experience, or an experience that will compete with the Mac OS.

We see Apple as the gold standard of the user experience. We believe that, while it can be a challenge, the innovation inherent in the Free software process can deliver an experience that is comparable and in many ways superior.

So Canonical will in fact launch an effort to try and spearhead that. And over a period of 2 years, really move the dial forward on the desktop experience.

Interesting that you would reference Apple. Because several weeks back I wrote an article – I’ve been an Apple user most of my life – called "An Apple User Tries Ubuntu." A lot of readers were upset when I said that, because I’ve been a longtime Apple user I’m going to stick with Apple, but I saw the virtues of Ubuntu.

And I don’t in any way react negatively when you put it the way you’ve put it – ‘Hey, I’m willing to try this Ubuntu thing, but you know what, I think Apple still delivers a better experience.’ I bet from the experience of a content creator that is a reasonable position. If you were a developer, I would take a different view. If you were particularly interested in the things that Linux does better, than I would say, ‘Hey, have you thought about these things.’

But right now I see it is true – that for an average user at home, a Mac would give a better experience.

We can change that. And while Canonical has historically taken something of a narrow view of its role in the ecosystem, I very much now want us to help to be the lightening conductor, the lightening rod, for that effort.

Will Linux will ever become a major player on the desktop, and if so, when? How many years away are we?

Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu

Shuttleworth in space

I do believe that Linux will become a significant force, and I think that Ubuntu will continue to champion our goals of delivering the best combination of both software freedom and ease of use. And so, putting those together, I do think, yes, we can become a force to be reckoned with. And offer a lot of value to the man on the street. We articulate what we’re about: Our passion is about Linux for human beings, it’s not Linux for Linux specialists, or Linux for anything other than the people who we care about.

How is the deal going with Dell? Have the numbers worked out as you hoped? Do you have future plans for the Dell-Canonical alliance?

Sure. The best answer I can give there is that we continue to expand the areas in which we work, some of that is visible. Dell has made Ubuntu available in markets well beyond the original coverage area and, in fact, if I look at the global picture, across all the countries in which they ship Ubuntu, there’s a very healthy volume in that.

And yes, I do think there are additional steps to be taken but this is not the right forum to [report them]. But there are concrete agreements in place and projects underway.

Is Ubuntu close to turning a profit?

The way I think of it, parts of it are. We clearly have no intention of making a profit on the operating system itself – we give that away. And so we build around that core platform a series of service businesses. And we have a number of those; some of them are closer to turning a profit than others.

And yes, I believe very strongly that we have to strive to deliver both the very best of Free software, and to do so on a commercially sustainable basis, and I think we can achieve that.

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Tags: open source, Linux, Ubuntu, Linux desktop, mark shuttleworth linux

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