Ubuntu Wants a Bigger Piece of Desktops, Servers

At the UbuCon user conference, Canonical, which sponsors the Ubuntu Linux distribution, explains how it plans to compete with Microsoft.

NEW YORK—The 2007 road map for the Ubuntu Linux operating system includes continuing its focus on the desktop, paying more attention to the server and garnering additional corporate support.

Speaking at Ubuntu user conference UbuCon here at Googles New York complex on Feb. 16, Steve George, director of support and services at Canonical, said, "The view from the Ubuntu side is that Microsoft has too much of the market. Were going to continue rolling out and making Ubuntu easy to use on the desktop and well add increased focus on the server this year." Canonical is the sponsor of the Ubuntu project and maintainer of the Ubuntu Linux distribution.

George said Canonical hopes to get the message out to technology companies that they can take part in Ubuntu.

"Oracle made the wrong choice in going with Red Hat" for its Linux distribution, George said, noting that Oracle will have to patch Red Hat problems.

"We want people to join with Canonical and be involved in Ubuntu," he said. "The second message is, yes, we have a free software interest, but were also a commercial company and we have commercial interests. So we want companies to take a commercial interest in us."

Already in 2007 Canonical has struck deals with SpikeSource, Linspire and SugarCRM to help boost adoption of Ubuntu.

However, "Why dont we see Linux in the store?" George asked. "The answer is, most businesses ask, Whats in it for me? Theres not enough customer demand for it in the United States. In developing countries its a different proposition. Were out there talking to PC makers."

George noted that Canonical has partnered with Hewlett-Packard to put Ubuntu on desktop or notebook machines in markets outside the United States, but that "was specific to a region," he said.

"It will be up to users to drive change," George said. Indeed, one area where there seems to be more interest "is for businesses that are independent and can sell more complex solutions for customers. But the biggest driver is going to be just total number of users. At the end of the day, pure numbers drive the market."

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read about why some figures in the open-source community approve the Ubuntu-Linspire partnership.

Meanwhile, Ubuntu got a personal endorsement when open-source guru Eric Raymond announced in a blog post on Feb. 21 that he was dropping Red Hats Fedora operating system in favor of Ubuntu.

"After 13 years as a loyal Red Hat and Fedora user, I reached my limit today, when an attempt to upgrade one package pitched me into a 4-hour marathon of dependency chasing, at the end of which an attempt to get around a trivial file conflict rendered my system unusable," Raymond wrote.

"Over the last five years, Ive watched Red Hat/Fedora throw away what was at one time a near-unassailable lead in technical prowess, market share and community prestige," he added.

Raymond said the core Fedora team became more inward-looking, more insistent on "narrow free software ideological purity" and more disconnected from technical and evangelical challenges.

However, Raymond said, at the same time, he has "watched Ubuntu rise to these challenges as Fedora fell away from them," and cited the Canonical partnership with Linspire as evidence of that.

At UbuCon, Jay Sulzberger, a free software advocate and a leader in the free software community in New York, delivered a talk on the history of free software. He railed against the evils of DRM (digital rights management). Yet, Sulzberger said he believes DRM could actually win against the claims of free software advocates, "and market forces defeating it is obvious nonsense."

One member of the audience when asked his view on DRM said, "DRM is content management that assumes everybody is a criminal."

Citing Microsoft as the bully on the block, Sulzberger singled out the Xbox 360 as the bullys club.

"The Xbox 360 is a PC on which Microsoft has root, though theyve sublicensed root to some game makers," Sulzberger said. He noted that the Xbox is Internet-ready, and "soon therell be e-mail and voice, etc. Nobodys cracked the Xbox 360, and if they do Microsoft will add one more layer" of security.

Moreover, Sulzberger said he felt like a sense of defeatism has set in amongst some free software supporters. "Dont be defeatist. Your strength is that most people are honest" and as such will listen to reason, he said. Sulzberger told the audience to contact legislators and regulators to get the free software message out, because, "They only hear from one side, the side that has money."

As part of his discussion, which meandered across the open-source and free software landscape, Sulzberger said he believes in "the rights of people to make copies [of software] in the privacy of their own homes."

He said the concept of a corporation, or particularly a limited liability company, is set up to enable its founders to avoid debt. "They declare they are exempt from repaying debts as long as it is dealing with the corporation," he said.

And while many folks knock free software, they support companies that otherwise try to avoid debt, he said. "In other words, much of the discussion by people who are against free software" is supporting companies that pursue the same motives as the free software movement, he said.

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