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The Linux Desktop Will Have Its Day: Q&A With Canonical Founder Mark Shuttleworth

By Jack M. Germain
Mar 5, 2010 5:00 AM PT

Canonical founder and CEO Mark Shuttleworth, developer of the Ubuntu open source operating system, announced in December that he was stepping aside to develop cloud product design and curry new partners.

The Linux Desktop Will Have Its Day: Q&A With Canonical Founder Mark Shuttleworth

He named Chief Operating Officer Jane Silber to take his place as CEO. Several weeks ago, Silber announced the hiring of open source industry veteran Matt Asay to fill her old job as COO.

Canonical, the London-based commercial sponsor of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, set high performance standards with its commitment for new distro releases for its popular desktop and server editions every six months.

LinuxInsider discussed with Shuttleworth the rise of adoption of Ubuntu Linux and how Canonical is adapting to the demands of winning converts from other operating systems.

Listen to the podcast (27:20 minutes).

Here are some excerpts:

Linux Insider: Given the growing reach of the Ubuntu server and desktop editions, what do you see as the driving factors for their acceptance?

Mark Shuttleworth: I think the most powerful drivers of the historical and wonderful adoption rate of Ubuntu have been the combination of the relentless focus we've put into the delivery of the system and the terms under which we do it. On the delivery front we recognize that the distributions play an important but ultimately quite a humble role in the formation of the open source ecosystem.

People think of Ubuntu as Linux, or Red Hat as Linux, or they think of Debian as Linux. But actually the real work gets done in many upstream communities. The distributions get a lot of credit. And our focus has been to really try to serve those upstream communities well by delivering their code to users on a very predictable schedule with the highest levels of quality and integration.

So what that means to users is they get on a very predictable schedule a high-quality drop of the very best of what's available from the open source ecosystem which they can embrace with confidence.

LIN: What about developers?

Shuttleworth: For the developers it means that their code lands on peoples' desks with us bearing the full brunt of interaction of end users around that code. There is nothing stunningly insightful in there. But by really focusing on the art of delivering a complete and easy-to-use system, that represents the very best of what's going on in the ecosystem and is quite impartial in its assessment of that. I think we've really given users something that they really want.

LIN: What will take Ubuntu to the next level?

Shuttleworth: In terms of looking forward and breaking into new areas of production, we are seeing sort of a real shift in the way people think about at Ubuntu in two different environments.

On the consumer front, we're seeing a shift in the way people think about alternative platforms to Windows amongst the PC companies. It used to be a kiss of death to present yourself as a genuine alternative to Windows. But the success of the Web and the success of Apple have really made the PC companies think that it is possible to offer something that is perceived to be valuable even if it is not Windows.

So we're seeing a rapid ramp-up of the number of PCs that ship around the world with Ubuntu, which is good for us. And those are going to folks who are not Linux enthusiasts and are not Linux specialists. So it has really raised the bar on the quality and crispness of the experience you have to deliver in order to keep those people happy.

How important is a candidate's knowledge of technology in winning your vote?
Extremely -- technology is at the center of most of the world's big problems and solutions.
Very -- a candidate who doesn't understand technology can't relate to young people.
Somewhat -- a general understanding is sufficient.
Not very -- choosing good advisers is more important than direct knowledge.
Not at all -- technology is often a distraction from more important issues.