In a webcast to announce the release of Ubuntu 8.10 on Thursday, Oct. 30, Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth said he believes the emerging layer of cloud frameworks should remain free open source just like the hypervisor. Instead of making money from the frameworks themselves, companies should seek to make money from tech support and intellectual property assurance, he said.
Shuttleworth wasn’t sure exactly how many people use Ubuntu software for free or with paid support. “‘I have absolutely no idea,” he said. “But our growth is outpacing anyone else.”
An indicator that seems to support that growth is that 25% of those who have downloaded Ubuntu said they use it in production versus development, he said.
The three key metrics for measuring platform success are levels of user adoption, commercial partnerships and user satisfaction, Shuttleworth said. It’s hard to quantify adoption without compromising privacy, he said. But users have grown so fast that the London-based Canonical Ltd. has taken extra care to ensure that the core base doesn’t feel neglected because of the expanding base of new users, he said.
As for partnerships, Canonical is working with as many of the top 10 original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) as it can and, in fact, is in the position of having to choose from competing hardware vendors, he said. London-based Canonical Ltd., the commercial backer of Ubuntu, has “several million” dollars in annual revenues but has not yet earned a profit.
“I have the patience to see the company through any downturn, but I think [the current global fiscal troubles] will be good for Canonical,” he added. “There’s no prospect of a squeeze on Canonical.”
“Our core business has had very positive growth” and could be in the black, but Canonical has chosen instead to devote resources instead to advancing the desktop in three ways: enhancing touch, bringing games close to three-dimensional imaging and adding additional Web capabilities and cloudlike computing to the desktop, he said.
Without those research initiatives, Canonical could be profitable in two years, but Shuttleworth said he doesn’t mind waiting three to five years if the extra time helps the company create the futuristic desktop he envisions. Shuttleworth also said he doesn’t believe that anyone can make money selling a Linux desktop, and he considers that positive. The only way to make money on the desktop is through services, which is a trend affecting the whole industry now, even Microsoft, he said.
“I remain confident that this is the right business model for the industry,” Shuttleworth predicted. “Software will shift away from licensing.”