"I do not want to position Ubuntu and Linux as a cheap alternative to Windows," Shuttleworth said in an interview with eWEEK following the May 1 announcement that Dell plans to preload Ubuntu on some consumer machines.
"While Linux is an alternative to Windows, it is not cheap Windows. Linux has its own strengths, and users should want it because of those strengths and not because its a cheap copy of Windows," he said.
Shuttleworth said he could only imagine running a Windows application on Ubuntu as a temporary strategy—part of a migration platform and not as the way of the future, "which could well be free software."
He was also upbeat about the idea of a boot camp for Ubuntu, noting that there are some interesting possibilities for virtualization on the desktop, and that there are many permutations and combinations on that front that remain to be explored.
There are some really good candidates for virtualization under Linux, Shuttleworth said, adding that he has been impressed with the approach of VMwares engineers to Linux.
"Often we see proprietary software companies just completely fail to understand not only the motivations of the Linux community, but also the processes. Its very practical, theres a way to get things done, and its different. The VMware guys have really engaged with us completely and worked to the agenda set by the Linux community, which is not an ideological agenda but a practical one," he said.
There are also two free software options on the virtualization front—Xen and KVM (kernel-based virtual machine) —that are being driven by Intel at a hardware level, he said.
"While Xen is the poster child of free software, and I would very much like for them to succeed, they need to step up and make their stuff available through the same framework as KVM and VMware have done. I expect them to do that within the next six months," Shuttleworth said.
Asked whether Dell should be offering dual-boot Windows/Ubuntu Linux systems, Shuttleworth said it was an interesting idea but not something he imagined would happen anytime soon as it would probably conflict with existing contractual obligations.
"As soon as you try to fit two people into one chair so to speak, you run into contractual issues, and those issues are not from our side. But Im not at all averse to the idea. I dont mind if someone wants to run Windows next to Ubuntu," he said.
While he said Linux is not yet ready for the general consumer market, he added that Dells decision to preload Ubuntu Linux on some of its consumer machines is an important milestone for the entire open-source community.
"This was a genuine response by Dell to their customers through their IdeaStorm Web site. It was not prompted by us … So, Im sure they will do other Linux distributions because everyone has their favorite one and thats fine. Im just very honored that they launched with us," he said.
The deal is also good for Linux as a whole, said Shuttleworth, because one of the key challenges for those who want to advocate free software generally "has been device compatibility, and the key there is market pressure more than anything else."
"Interestingly enough, I dont think we need to have an enormous share of the number of shipping PCs to still have an enormous influence on the selection of components by the biggest vendors. So, for all versions of Linux—Ubuntu, SUSE, Red Hat, Gentoo, Debian—this is a very important milestone," Shuttleworth said.
He also acknowledged that the deal was initiated by Dell and not Canonical, the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu, and that Canonical will supply all the software support, while Dells staff will make sure that any issues that arise are not hardware ones.
"So support will be available as a commercial option, while folks will still have the option of getting support from the community at no cost, and theres a very large community around Ubuntu, or they can buy it from us," Shuttleworth said.