Ubuntu – Leading Contender In Linux World?

Probably not. However, Ubuntu may be the leading contender when it comes to luring frustrated Windows users into trying Linux.

Why is that? Well, I’ll tell you my theory on why Ubuntu is doing all it can to suck in frustrated MS Windows users. Firstly, you have to understand a few realities about Linux. Ubuntu is NOT the only Linux operating system out there. It’s not the oldest (Slackware). It’s not the fastest (SLAX or Puppy run in RAM). It’s not the the …est anything, except maybe mostest cunning.

There are many Linux distributions out there in the world; some are free (as in beer), some are free (as in speech), some are commercial products (you pay $$$ for them), some are hybrids or combinations thereof. The point here being that there is no ONE Linux to rule them all. The Linux that rules them all is the one chosen by you to use as your primary operating system on your computer.

Ubuntu was created by and is maintained/distributed by a for-profit company called Canonical, which was created by an young entrepreneur bazillonaire named Mark Shuttleworth. Shuttleworth is not a student of Gandhi or Mother Teresa. I’d have to pigeon-hole him with Warren Buffet or Donald Trump, actually. He’s out to make a buck, in plain-speak. He has a game plan, too.

My theory on what Shuttleworth had in mind…

Mark was sitting around one day, sucking down a brew or two, wondering what he could do to make his next bazillion. Well, he’s a bit of a nerd anyway, so it should probably have something to do with computers. Hey! That Gates and that Jobs fellow seemed to do well for themselves, right? Here’s the problem, though. Mark can’t easily piggy-back on either Microsoft’s or Apple’s operating system to make a buck, so what to do?

AHA! There’s that open source operating system out there that no one knows much about. It’s called Linux. Mark figures he can find (or steal away) a bunch of Linux gurus to help him write a new Linux distribution. Initially, he’ll give it away to all comers. He’ll set up and maintain a huge support and community system. He’ll make his Linux distribution as point & click easy as Microsoft’s or Apple’s product. Since Linux is inherently more secure than MS Windows, he can even use that as a selling point.

Alrighty, we’re down the road a bit now… say 2015. Ubuntu has developed a rather large user base. Lots and lots of X-MS Windows users have jumped ship on Cap’n Gates and now run Ubuntu exclusively. This is the time for Shuttleworth and Canonical to stop offering Ubuntu for free. Now you can buy it at Best Buy or Amazon. He’ll charge for support and updating, too. Will folks pay? If Ubuntu can be sold for 1/2 to 1/3 of what MS Windows (whatever version) is going for at that time, yes. There’s a good possibility that folks will pay for it.

New users won’t know really anything about Linux. They’ll only know Ubuntu. They were point & click zombies when they were using their Windows and they’ll be point & click zombies when using their Ubuntu. They read their FWD porn and joke emails from friends and family, they surf a few websites, they might even pay a bill or two online. That’s all they really use their computers for, anyway. That is Shuttleworth’s potential paying customer pool, folks.

Can it really happen? Ya’ never know…

Don’t get me wrong, folks. I think Ubuntu is a great Linux distribution. It’s based on one of my favorites… the rock solid Debian GNU/Linux. Ubuntu is great for introducing folks to Linux. It’s the distribution I use to install for “curious” friends and family members who hear me talk about running an operating system other than MS Windows. This article is not about bashing Ubuntu or anything, actually. It’s just a speculation on the inner workings of the mind of a man who obviously likes to make money.

Just wanted you to understand that. Try Ubuntu, by the way. You might like it.

Have FUN!


Addenda: A member (lewmur) at Scot’s Newsletter Forums – Bruno’s All Things Linux, where I’m an Admin, posted a link to this very interesting article about how Canonical may be proposing to make some $$$…

Will 12,000 Cloud Computing Deployments Lead to Profit?

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  • Luis  On April 26, 2010 at 14:06

    You are so wrong.. Have you read the Ubuntu promisse? The moment they start selling it they will dissapear. Why? Because most of the code is out there, it belongs to the community. Anyone can make another Free Linux Ubuntu-based Dist and then Canonical will be out of business.

    You think I’m wrong? What about Mint? What about this list: http://www.debianadmin.com/list-of-ubuntu-based-linux-distributions-and-live-cds.html?

  • Arnab Das  On April 26, 2010 at 14:14

    I think you should go through the Ubuntu philosophy. if not, see here: http://www.ubuntu.com/community/ubuntustory/philosophy

    next, the very basis of ubuntu’s existence is promotion of free softwares. i dont think any true open source developer would contribute to ubuntu’s development if ubuntu deviated from its core principles.

  • NCLI  On April 26, 2010 at 14:26

    First of all, Mark isn’t a “bazillonaire,” in fact, he’s used most of his fortune to found Canonical. Second, the Ubuntu Promise clearly states that Ubuntu will always be free.

    Third, and most important: What do you think Canonical’s major customers, the big companies and governments, will do if Canonical decides to charge money for Ubuntu? It will totally ruin their budget planning, and the relationship they have built with Canonical.

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On April 26, 2010 at 15:15

      WOW! People (other than my brother and three other friends) actually do read my blog. THANK YOU for reading! Also, thanks for the comment from all of you. Yes, I’m aware of the Ubuntu Promise. However, businesses break promises all the time. I’m not saying that Shuttleworth/Canonical intend to break that promise. It was just idle speculation inspired by another blog post that I read elsewhere yesterday. I just have to wonder how a FOR-PROFIT business like Canonical intends to make a profit with their current “Give it away… Give it away… Give it away now!” (apologies to the Red Hot Chili Peppers) business plan.

      Again, thank you for your comments, corrections, insight, etc. I read and consider ALL comments posted in reply to my articles.


  • Drmgiver  On April 26, 2010 at 15:37

    First thing I would have to ask is what is wrong with making a buck? Trust me, Torvalds has made a lot of it I’m sure. That being said, Ubuntu will always be free. Will Canonical make a Linux distro that you have to buy? Possibly after Linux distros get a little more popularity. 2015 is pushing it a little bit I think. But it won’t be “Ubuntu”, it will be another *buntu. A bit like the difference between Red Hat and Fedora I’m sure. That is a bit more realistic. However again, I think 2015 is pushing it a bit. That being said, lets compare Ubuntu and Windows, at least in my experience. Windows: Daily issues and constant problems with each piece of hardware that I have ever owned, some I have never been able to fix. Now Ubuntu: I have had a few problems here and there, minor ones, and certainly none that I haven’t been able to fix very easily, and the problems never return. Well hell, wheres my wallet?

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On April 26, 2010 at 15:46

      Good points… and a very interesting prediction (about another branch of *buntu as a paid version).

      Yeah… the 2015 was probably way too early.

      Oh, and absolutely NOTHING at all wrong with making a $ or two. I endeavor every day to do so.

      Thanks for the read and the comments, Drmgiver!


  • manny  On April 26, 2010 at 19:54


    so you implying that ubuntu may go the way of mandriva, suse or redhat?

    yea they might, but not right away.

    actually it might be of benefit, because Suse and Fedora are the ones developing/testing most of the programs and technologies.

    Fedora right now is doing some crazy testing of Btrfs (the zsf and ext4 killer 🙂 ) with system rollbacks

    Ubuntu has done a great job to make linux easy to use, but they don’t have enough manpower (yet) to drive more innovation or get manufacturer support. An economic boost would certainly help because there’s an immense amount of work to do.

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On April 26, 2010 at 20:47

      Manny wrote: “so you implying that ubuntu may go the way of mandriva, suse or redhat?”

      Yup. That was sort of my speculation. I don’t see anything wrong with that. As I said previously though, I have to suspect it because I’ve never known a for-profit company to have a business plan that intentionally did not make them any profit. It just stands to reason that Canonical has plans to make a profit from Ubuntu somehow and some where down the road.

      Thanks for reading and for your comments!


  • armageddon  On April 26, 2010 at 20:22

    There’s nothing wrong in having a paid version. I already think that the LTS versions of Ubuntu should be paid ones.

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On April 26, 2010 at 20:56

      My guess is the LTS versions might be a test of just what you propose.

      Thanks for reading and for the comments.


  • Adam Williamson  On April 27, 2010 at 17:59

    “It just stands to reason that Canonical has plans to make a profit from Ubuntu somehow and some where down the road.”

    Canonical’s stated position is that they intend to make money off Ubuntu-related ‘services’, though for a long time they were very vague about what these would be. With recent developments you can start to see the shape of this, though; lots of ‘cloud-based’ things, like storage and the Music Store. It’s an interesting strategy.

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On April 27, 2010 at 18:14

      Hi Adam,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. And yes… it is an interesting overall strategy. I wonder how things will turn out for them. Makes me wonder if I ought to get in the line for that initial stock offering.


  • rMatey  On April 27, 2010 at 19:23

    Not much chance of making money for support as long as the Ubuntu forums and other helpful souls are around. I’ve only had a few problems, usually with some software question. And they were always answered. Better than what experiences I’ve had with doing my virtual machine work with Microsoft’s site…and they couldn’t trace the problem, which is still unanswered since last year.

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On April 27, 2010 at 20:20

      Hi rMatey!

      Well, community support is a good thing too, I think. Even with that available, though, you’d be surprised to know the amount of folks who would opt for paid support.

      Thanks for the read and the comments.


  • L4Linux  On April 27, 2010 at 23:11

    Shuttleworth a nerd…? Whatever dude…

    He only travelled to space and Antarctica you know. Has the average “non-nerd” (according to you) done something cooler in a lifespan? I don’t think so.

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On April 27, 2010 at 23:25

      Umm… I meant that as a compliment to Mark Shuttleworth, not as a put down. He’s smart. He’s ambitious. He’s not your average Joe. That’s for sure. Believe me, my speculations about Ubuntu/Canonical’s future weren’t meant to be divisive or negative. Ubuntu has a lot of loyal followers. I seem to have pissed a few off with this post. I didn’t mean to.

      Thanks for reading and for your comments.


  • Akshat  On April 28, 2010 at 03:16

    Shuttleworth is certainly a nerd(or a geek).In fact he was the package maintainer of Apache for Debian in the 1990’s.

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On April 28, 2010 at 09:49

      And, of course, we all know that there’s nothing wrong with being nerdy or geeky. Most of us here are that to some extent.

      Thanks for reading and the comments.


  • Grenage  On April 28, 2010 at 04:44

    The more OS competition, the merrier. Let’s assume that a popular distro did go bad; with those users now well versed in Linux, it’s a small step across to another distro.

    • V. T. Eric Layton  On April 28, 2010 at 09:48

      Yes. I made that step very soon after coming to Linux via Ubuntu. I write a bit about that in today’s article… Get Slack!

      Thanks for reading and for your comments.


  • Brad  On April 28, 2010 at 07:07

    Love any article that creates this much discussion. I think you might have hit on something if this many people are up in arms!


    • V. T. Eric Layton  On April 28, 2010 at 09:53

      Brad said: “I think you might have hit on something if this many people are up in arms!”

      Definitely. I didn’t really expect that I’d piss so many off, though. I have nothing but good to say about Ubuntu. A little speculation about their business plan seems to have ruffled some feathers here and there. We all love our favorites.

      Thanks for reading and the comments, Brad.


  • L4Linux  On April 28, 2010 at 23:14

    @Brad:” Love any article that creates this much discussion.”
    Every Ubuntu “hating”(or criticizing if you prefer) post gets a ton of visitors.
    Ubuntu hating is on a sharp increase. This is a very good thing, it shows beyond doubt that Ubuntu is becoming more and more successful.

  • V. T. Eric Layton  On April 28, 2010 at 09:59

    Thank you for the link-back, Dr. Schestowitz. I like your site. Very nice!



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