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."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.
Red Hat and Novells SUSE welcomed the move but downplayed its competitive significance. Click here to read more.