By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2007-05-04 Print this article Print

The Dell deal will also drive revenue for Canonical, which makes its money from support services. It also gives Ubuntu and Canonical a lot more exposure at the point of purchase. Until now, customers have largely had to look at their Linux needs separately: hardware, software and then a support contract. "Now we can be right there when they are provisioning. Thats great," he said. In response to comments from a Novell official that questioned the significance of the deal, Shuttleworth noted that the history of Linux has involved a series of battles for credibility in each category.
Red Hat and Novells SUSE welcomed the move but downplayed its competitive significance. Click here to read more.
"So there was a time when people pooh-poohed Linux on the server. Microsoft spent some time doing that and, of course, the free software community decided to take on that challenge and do what needed to be done to make it scalable, reliable, all of the things that you look for from a higher-end Unix. So now the consumer-oriented PC is another field of battle. But, to be fair, I dont think Linux is ready for the general consumer market as yet," he said. With regard to Microsofts dominance on the desktop front, Shuttleworth said that its all about lock-in and not something that the company creates through a particular technology. It is something "that we freely give them. So, just having alternative technologies today is not going to change societys behavior. It may affect some of Microsofts pricing power, but its not going to dislodge them," he said. What could dislodge them, he said, is fundamentally different ways of working and different business models, which is why Microsoft sees Google as such a large threat, because it brings a very different way of working and a Web-based office suite rather than another traditional office suite. Ubuntu 7.04, also known as "Feisty Fawn," recently arrived with an optional Java Stack. Click here to read more. Asked why he thought Dell went with the "Feisty Fawn" Ubuntu release rather than the long-term support version, Shuttleworth said, "I think that, in the desktop environment where desktop applications are evolving very quickly, free software evolution counts for a lot of functionality, right, and so they get to offer their users that." But, while Shuttleworth would not say if the company is talking to any other top-tier hardware vendors about similar deals, he noted that Canonical is focusing on helping Dell make a success of this latest arrangement. "All of it counts for naught if it doesnt translate into a sustainable line of business. We know that Linux users are passionate about technology and they want great stuff. I think Dell is a really good company to be launching this because their configure-and-buy approach really suits the mentality and philosophy of people who are passionate about technology," he said. While he also declined to name the machines that Dell would preload Ubuntu on, Shuttleworth did say that there were some key characteristics that went into that decision-making process. A critical one was the availability of free software drivers. "I am a deep believer in the ideology of free software. I think its morally better, but Im also very conscious of the practical benefits of the free software movement. So I can certainly imagine that in the process to settle on the final hardware list, the availability of genuine free software drivers, where the vendor understands how to work with not just Ubuntu but with the Linux community, is a significant contributor to the decision," he said. eWEEK sister site DesktopLinux.com reported on April 30 that Ubuntu will be preloaded onto a Dell e-series "Essential" Dimension desktop, an XPS desktop and an e-series Inspiron laptop, and that the systems will be available in late May 2007. Click here to read more about the Dell systems slated to get Ubuntu. Microsoft has claimed that the application ecosystem around Linux is nowhere near as strong as it is for Windows, and Shuttleworth said that was a good story and might actually be true in some instances. "I would never tell anyone to deploy Ubuntu everywhere without thinking about it. What is powerful in life is to really know what your options are and then to make the right decisions. In many cases, Microsoft has established a strong sector lock and has lots of developers who only use that platform," he said. However, he said, in many cases there is a bigger portfolio of high-quality free software applications than of proprietary ones. "We all saw how the Internet got built on free software. Google is built on free software, its infrastructure is built on free software. The company probably wouldnt have happened if the founders didnt have access to open-source software like Linux and Apache and all the free tools the community gave them," he said. "Im guessing Salesforces infrastructure runs on free software. Same for MySpace, Im guessing, FaceBook too, the list goes on," he concluded. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at www.eweek.com.


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