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Shuttleworth Says Canonical Is Not Cash-Flow Positive 304

eldavojohn writes "Mark Shuttleworth, the millionaire bankroller who keeps Ubuntu going strong, has revealed 'Canonical is not cash-flow positive' just as version 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) of the popular Linux distribution is released today. In a call, he said he 'had no objection' in funding Canonical for another three to five years. He did say, however, that if they concentrated on the server edition of Ubuntu that they could be profitable in two years."
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Shuttleworth Says Canonical Is Not Cash-Flow Positive

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  • by jcookeman ( 843136 ) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @10:05AM (#25569697)
    Red Hat itself has made it public that the desktop market is a very difficult one. Ubuntu has made very decent inroads to the desktop market for Linux, but it is true they need to put much more effort on the server side to become truly competitive. I think they have done some good work, but look forward to see what the community can provide in the next couple years. It's very hard to start competing in a market that is already spoken for by a few big players.
    • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @10:16AM (#25569897)
      Red Hat itself has made it public that the desktop market is a very difficult one. Ubuntu has made very decent inroads to the desktop market for Linux

      It depends, I suppose, on how low your expectations are. Top Operating System Share Trend [hitslink.com]

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @10:32AM (#25570161) Homepage

      but it does not have to be. honestly mediabuntu the unofficial and technically "illegal" offshoot is mainstream ready. If they have to charge to have a legal mediabuntu released so if you install it's ready to go even for the unknowing home user then that is what they need to do.

      If joe sexpack can buy a $19.99 ubuntu cd from worst buy and get it installed and on the net watching people getting kicked in the nuts on youtube and playing his music it will take off fast. When it works on that old pc and they dont have to buy a new one and Vista....

      but then it will also take advertising....

      Hello I'm a Windows PC, and I'm a Ubuntu PC......

      WPC: I'm good at business!
      UPC: you suck dude... wow!..... suckage! sssssuuuuuccckkkkkk!
      WPC: that's rude.
      UPC: Looooser! You suck! Loser!
      WPC: What is the matter with you?

      Ubuntu..... because windows sucks...

      well it would make people laugh :)

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by davolfman ( 1245316 )
        I always thought the commercial should go something like:

        Hello I'm a Mac.

        And, I'm a PC. And so is he. And so is that guy with the beard over there.

        Hi, I'm a Linux box.

        In fact my buddies the server and the workstation are PC's too. Even this little guy.

        Hi, I'm a netbook!

        Is a PC.

        Of course it's more of an Intel commercial than an MS one.
      • joe sexpack

        Odds are pretty high that there is a pornstar with this name, but I don't particularly want to check up on it!

    • The problem is that if they shrink the market, then MS will expand to compete. This is a simple issue; keep the fight on your land against an intractable enemy with near infinite resources, or go to their land and force them to be all over the place?
  • Really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anarke_Incarnate ( 733529 ) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @10:06AM (#25569709)
    What do they have to offer, besides the .deb repositories and less long term support, than Novell/SUSE and Red Hat or Oracle cannot do now?

    They are late to the party, and while I am glad for the strides they have made, Novell and Red Hat can eat them for lunch with other tie ins with their product line.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by adamruck ( 638131 )

      Perhaps huge companies still use Redhat and Novell just for the name, however all of the linux sysadmins I know for smaller companies prefer ubuntu hands down.

      • Re:Really (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anarke_Incarnate ( 733529 ) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @10:12AM (#25569831)
        The reason they use it for smaller companies is that they are probably NOT paying for support and don't call for things like kernel fixes or package fixes. What kind of support does Ubuntu have for tools when not even all versions of RHEL or SLES, let alone Oracle Linux are supported? Where is the OMSA package for Ubuntu?

        The name helps sell PHBs, but the support from either RH or Novell is far better. I am sure Canonical can do well, but will they put boots on the ground in enough time to support outages?

        What is the model for cloning machines, deploying machines and such?

        What is the structure for connecting to various directories?

        • Re:Really (Score:5, Insightful)

          by EagleRock ( 973742 ) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @10:42AM (#25570303)
          I think Canonical hit the ground running with Ubuntu Desktop, since it tried to bring Linux to the masses with easy GUI tools and whatnot. The problem is that Ubuntu's strengths don't carry over to Ubuntu Server, especially when you deal with SysAdmins that know what they're doing. Their only strength is that they're based off of Debian, which you can get with, well, Debian. You can tell that they are trying to tout ease-of-use with their default LAMP install out-of-the-box, but that's already been done years ago, and they just don't have the advanced server options that Novell or RedHat have for their enterprise solutions. I appreciate them trying, but their methodologies are doomed to fail.
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            The problem is that Ubuntu's strengths don't carry over to Ubuntu Server, especially when you deal with SysAdmins that know what they're doing.

            And that group does not include most Windows Admins running Windows servers.

            Ubuntu's GUI tools other successes on the desktop make it a direct competitor to windows desktops, and these same features make it a direct competitor to windows servers. Windows servers have nothing else to offer apart from their GUI interfaces and integration with clients. But with the demi [joelonsoftware.com]

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Yetihehe ( 971185 )
            I think you haven't tried debian AND ubuntu. Ubuntu IS easier than debian, it's small things but overall configuration is easier and installing new packages and services is easier. My company's small development server is now on ubuntu (but desktop edition, we use windows for workstations, we sometimes need to check pages under linux).
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by EagleRock ( 973742 )
              I've been using Debian for about 8 years (since version 2.1) and I tried Ubuntu 7.04 and 7.10 for about four months. In my personal opinion, Debian is a superbly-stable server OS, even when you use Testing as opposed to Stable. I've run a Debian Testing server for roughly 4 years with absolutely no problems before the hardware became too old and I decomissioned it. Debian would be an excellent contender to the corporate Linux server market, but the Debian Project is obviously not interested. As far as
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jbailey999 ( 146222 )

          (obDisclosure: I'm the former manager of Canonical's support and service department)

          I'm curious in which way you consider Canonical's support to be inferior? At the time when I left Canonical, one Linux mag (I don't remember which one off hand, sorry.) rated us as tied with RH for providing support.

          You have actually *tried* buying support from Canonical, right? =)

          We were cheerfully providing 7x24 support, though with essentially no hold time and with an escalation setup internally that you could get relati

      • Hands Down (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <{enderandrew} {at} {gmail.com}> on Thursday October 30, 2008 @10:14AM (#25569871) Homepage Journal

        Hands down?

        I'm curious to find one single major advantage Ubuntu has over Red Hat, CentOS, SLES, or openSUSE in an enterprise environment.

        • by Anarke_Incarnate ( 733529 ) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @10:17AM (#25569925)
          Brown. It is full of brown. What can brown do for you?
        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by wytcld ( 179112 )

          A single major advantage: It's Debian-based, but more current, better honed. I haven't run SUSE, but deb package management is far better than Red Hat's rpm, and that can be a huge advantage.

          A disadvantage: There are some Debian-specific errors that Ubuntu has inherited. The installation routine for the server version, for instance, uses its own partitioner rather than one of the standard *fdisk variants. That partitioner doesn't write partitions on the cylinder boundaries with certain HP raid controllers,

          • openSUSE 11's package management has seen a major face-lift. It solves dependencies better, packages are smaller, and it is faster. I've been installing openSUSE 11 left and right for people, and use it myself on multiple boxes. I haven't come across and dependency hell once with it.

            It is at the very least on par with Ubuntu's package management, if not better.

            I have had a major issue with Ubuntu and kernels, both at home, and at work. At work we couldn't get Ubuntu to recognize the nics in some blades,

          • Re:Hands Down (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Nevyn ( 5505 ) * on Thursday October 30, 2008 @11:08AM (#25570765) Homepage Journal

            A single major advantage: It's Debian-based, but more current, better honed

            "more current" in relation to Debian stable, maybe. In relation to the competition it is always subjective, given that RHEL/CentOS have 7+ year support lifetimes. I don't think anyone has done a "newness" and "correctness" metric for LTS vs. RHEL ... my guess is that they are about equal at GA.

            but deb package management is far better than Red Hat's rpm, and that can be a huge advantage.

            This is hard to qualify statement, rpm is a super set of dpkg and it's hard to argue that yum is anything but a superset of apt-get (in terms of features, UI and speed). You could probably argue that Debian packaging is stricter than Fedora/RHEL/EPEL, mostly due to the above (which also means it's harder on the packager, but somewhat easier on the tools). Maybe you just mean that Debian/Ubuntu "offically support" apt-get dist-upgrade, whereas Fedora/RHEL/CentOS don't, yet, for various reasons ... which while valid is much less so in a real company setting, IMO.

            So there are weaknesses in Debian, but do they compare with rpm hell,

            I can only assume that you haven't used rpm/yum recently ... or that you have seen cases where bad external packages are imported into rpm case but not in the dpkg case (as the resulting dpkg hell is often much worse).

            or with the many adventures with Red Hat's aggressive patching of its kernels? If you're running Red Hat and compile your own generic kernels, that's not a problem. With Red Hat you really should. With Ubuntu I haven't yet had a problem running their kernel versions.

            I can only assume this is some kind of weird joke, or maybe you are trolling. Ubuntu is infamous for kludging their kernels and not working upstream ... and personally if you are not running the distro. kernel on RHEL then you might as well set fire to your money instead.

          • Re:Hands Down (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Tekfactory ( 937086 ) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @11:14AM (#25570857) Homepage

            I don't want to start an argument, but

            Have you tried Red Hat, Fedora, CentOS lately?

            Package Management through Yum, or the Package Manager is easy to use, works fine and is much easier than loading individual packages through Rpm and divining dependencies on your own.

            I assume you problems with Rpm are with the package installation program and not the file format itself.

            The weirdest problem I have had lately was uninstalling Samba ripped Nautilus off a system, and my Desktop icons disappeared. Reinstalling Nautilus fixed the problem, and also re-loaded some tiny piece of Samba it thinks it needs.

            • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

              I have to say that I find CentOS a very good OS. YUM works just as well as apt-get. Very stable and really does just work.
              I have not tired Ubuntu server in a while.
              If anyone wants to work a server distro one can become an idiot friendly PDC would probably be a big winner.
              Include SugarCRM and O3Spaces and I think you would have a winner.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by schklerg ( 1130369 )
        At my company (not that huge), our preference from the Admin side was Debian on Linux servers (apt dependency handling/updating beats rpm hands down to me) but we were forced to Novell or Red Hat so there would be someone to call & blame if there was issues. Ubuntu was brand new when this decision was made and so not really considered from the VPs. So for production systems its RHEL, for our admin stuff (not considered 'mission critical') it's Debian, and I run Ubuntu on my laptop.
  • The server version? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stinerman ( 812158 ) <nathan.stine @ g m a i l . com> on Thursday October 30, 2008 @10:06AM (#25569725) Homepage

    He did say, however, that if they concentrated on the server edition of Ubuntu that they could be profitable in two years.

    The server version, otherwise known as Debian.

    Hasn't this gone full circle? The Debian release cycle is too long and uncertain so out comes Ubuntu. Ubuntu takes from unstable, fixes some bugs, adds some polish and makes a decent desktop OS. Now Ubuntu wants to concentrate on the server which is exactly what Debian stable is for? Please. Canonical would be better served by just supporting Debian.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jcookeman ( 843136 )
      I doubt that will pay their bills though. No?
      • You're serious?

        Canonical doesn't make money off of giving away Ubuntu. They make money off supporting it, just like every other major Linux vendor in the universe.

        So you can either hire enough people to create an OS and support it or hire enough people to support someone else's OS, where they bear the costs of creating it.

        You tell me which sounds cheaper.

    • by dsginter ( 104154 ) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @10:27AM (#25570087)

      Hasn't this gone full circle?

      No - the predominant attitude in the industry is "if you don't like it, then fork it" - so they did. Why did they do it? I think that you answered it yourself with the very next sentence:

      The Debian release cycle is too long and uncertain so out comes Ubuntu.

      When you see how the mirrors are getting slammed right now (8.10 is on most of them), you simply must realize that Ubuntu has stolen most of the mindshare aware from Debian. Is that not good?

      • by rzei ( 622725 ) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @10:53AM (#25570495)

        I think that you answered it yourself with the very next sentence:

        The Debian release cycle is too long and uncertain so out comes Ubuntu.

        I totally agree. Debian is great, but as they don't have as good release cycle as Ubuntu, there are quite many packages which are way beyond usable as those cannot be upgraded in a stable Debian.

        Of course it's a matter of stability also, but a release cycle would eventually do only good for Debian also. Just think what would happen if Debian and Ubuntu Server could unite at one point.. Not knowing the specifics, but I guess many debian devs/maintainers already receive paychecks from Canonical.

        Debian has great number of great maintainers, and have set the bar on package management to a whole another level for everyone in the operating system field.

        Ubuntu in the other end has revolutionalized the desktop, essentially by adding "listening users needs" and "release cycle" to already good Debian recipe.

        For support, Debian based (server) system is something I could consider buying that. As long as they can handle cost being accessible to ISV's.

      • How many server admins are using a non-LTS version of Ubuntu because the Debian release cycle is too unpredictable? You only get 18 months of support for those. Debian stable will always give you more than that.

        It's my opinion that Ubuntu is not "server-grade" software. Debian stable is. However, the efficacy of Ubuntu isn't the point at hand.

        • by Guspaz ( 556486 )

          Why would Debian's release schedule cause somebody to use a non-LTS release of Ubuntu instead of an LTS release?

          Server LTS releases are supported for five years. That's pretty decent. They're also predictable, happening every two years, give or take a few months.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by muuh-gnu ( 894733 )

          >You only get 18 months of support for those.
          >Debian stable will always give you more than that.

          First, you can't get official commercial grade support Debian for stable at all. Second, even if you could, the LTS in the average lasts longer than Debian stable usually does.

          Not only are Debians unpredictable releases a disadvantage compared to Ubuntu LTS, but even the community grade support you _can_ get for a stable does not last long enough to compare with Canonicals LTS.

          Ubuntu beats Debian on polish,

        • I think what it comes down to is that technology is changing too fast these days for the Debian release cycle. If you want to be using the latest tools, you're simply out of luck unless you want to be constantly building and supporting your own debs.

          "Server-grade" depends upon what it is that you want to serve, and for a lot of companies, that doesn't mean using tools that were current three years ago.

    • by blazerw11 ( 68928 ) <blazerw@bigfoot . c om> on Thursday October 30, 2008 @10:38AM (#25570253) Homepage

      Now Ubuntu wants to concentrate on the server

      No, they don't want to concentrate on the server.
      From the summary (emphasis mine):

      if they concentrated on the server edition of Ubuntu that they could be profitable in two years.

      A hypothetical does not a fact make.

    • by MrNaz ( 730548 ) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @10:40AM (#25570271) Homepage

      This is a great idea. Supporting Debian will give them the support revenue, and eliminate all the development costs associated with maintaining their own derivative distro. They'd also be strengthening the Debian community, which is the underlying reason Ubuntu can exist in the first place. Ubuntu hasn't the resources to duplicate even a fraction of Debian's activity, so they serve both themselves better and the Debian community by simply supporting Debian stable and, if they *really* want, maintaining a custom patch set for whatever changes they may want (different process scheduler or whatnot).

      I never understood why they needed or even wanted to create their own server distro when Debian stable is a rock solid, well known, highly regarded distro that they could profit from by supporting the existing users rather than trying to create a server user community of their own by convincing sysadmins (who are very hard to change by the way) to use their own, new, shiny distro that is untested and unproven, especially when compared to the likes of Debian stable.

      Dumb move from Canonical, IMHO, and it smacks of the NIH (not invented here) mindset.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jbailey999 ( 146222 )

        (obDisclosure: I used to work for Canonical and am a DD)

        Without any stats to back this up, I'm guessing that 200 full time Canonical employees could totally trounce the amount of work that the 1000 or so DDs do.

        But that's not the point, is it?

        Debian in a lot of ways is better off because of Ubuntu. Look at the quality of the bug reports in Launchpad. Debian would be totally and utterly crushed if the maintainers of the various packages had to deal with the noise level that comes into there.

        Ubuntu also mak

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Hasn't this gone full circle? The Debian release cycle is too long and uncertain so out comes Ubuntu.

      And isn't it still? The last three took 23, 35 and 22 months respectively and now we're at 18 and counting. If you're waiting for any functionality to be in the next stable, you never really know when it'll be. Every time they estimate 18 and slip by many months without any real timeline for others to plan with, it's done when it's done. In a pinch you could run a non-LTS release of Ubuntu or try a little crossbreed with LTS and "normal" supported packages. I really don't see testing as any serious option a

    • The problem with Ubuntu is that it's focussed on the private home PC, not at the PC in the enterprise, and not at the server.

      6.06 had problems with NFS (timestamps on copy over NFS) and NIS (gdm login abysmally slow). These bugs were never fixed, i.e. not taken serious.. after all, they don't affect users on a private home PC.

      8.04 again has problems if there are users with home directories on NFS (need to uninstall tracker). And the NFS doesn't play nice with our software server (hangs). And cfengine i

  • 3 years - 2 years = not a problem.

    But er.. yeah.

    • by ja ( 14684 )
      Debian (stable) is occasionally so out of touch it won't even boot on contemporary Intel hardware. So no!
  • ...give Linus more ammo to complain about desktop Linux. :p

  • To me Linux has never been profitable in the Desktop-User side, but in the Servers Side. How can one make profit in the desktop world? Free software is mostly based on services not software license selling and it's not only libre but gratis (free as beer).

    Linux (Ubuntu) has become really easy to use, and Linux users are mostly advanced users which can take care of themselves rather than paying for support, of for another service. And nowadays, most services are platform independent, IMHO.
    • Sure guys like Novell offer SLED, but I haven't seen a company aggressively pursue the enterprise desktop market. With the flop that is Vista, now is the time.

    • by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 ) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @10:46AM (#25570395)

      To me Linux has never been profitable in the Desktop-User side, but in the Servers Side.
      How can one make profit in the desktop world? Free software is mostly based on services not software license selling and it's not only libre but gratis (free as beer).

      You're focused on the wrong thing. It doesn't matter if it's "desktop" or "server". What matters is who is doing the buying. Consumers / end users don't spend the big money on services. Enterprises do. And so what you want to do is provide a product that meets needs of the Enterprise. If enterprise customers want desktop Linux support, then that's a nice market to be in. The reality is that such a market is still very limited and niche. But enterprise customers are doing plenty of Linux deployments in the datacenter. That market is sizable and growing. That's where the money is.

      • Another problem with Linux, as someone who spent some time selling it to the CIO, supporting it, installing it, etc. BEFORE companies like Ubuntu (think, late 90s, early 21st century) is stability.

        We found it much more economical to bring in a consultant when something broke, and let in-house take care of day to day maintenance. I made sure that any consulting company was fully aware that this wasn't a contract they would retire on, and that any consultants DIDN'T have a problem with someone looking over t

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zappepcs ( 820751 )

      Now hold on right there billy joe!

      When you say

      ...Linux users are mostly advanced users which can take care of themselves rather than paying for support...

      it gets right up my craw, and I'll tell you why. To demonstrate, lets rewrite that line:

      Windows users are mostly computer-ignorant users which try to take care of their own stuff rather than paying for support.

      Yes, it does sound a bit ridiculous, but Ubuntu is aimed at replacing the Windows desktop environment, and thus aiming at being the OS used by computer-ignorant users, NOT sysadmins and technically savvy Linux users. When the Linux ball gets rolling a b

  • ... and bless him (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheMeuge ( 645043 ) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @10:12AM (#25569833)

    Mr. Shuttleworth is truly praise-"worthy" (forgive the pun) because he's willing to put his money where his mouth is, and pay out of pocket to support his principles.

    In the end, nothing is actually "free". While people can and do put in their time, without expecting to be compensated for their work on the various Linux distributions, or other open-source software, they do so because they have other jobs that support them financially. As the Linux desktop market expands, there will be a need for even more people to dedicate even more time to maintaining and perfecting the codebase... and this will require a positive cash flow into the industry. One way or the other we (the consumers of these wonderful products) are going to have to pay... and we shouldn't be apprehensive about it. I have no problem with paying let's say $50/year for Ubuntu, because it has worked great for me.

    • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @10:20AM (#25569975)

      One way or the other we (the consumers of these wonderful products) are going to have to pay... and we shouldn't be apprehensive about it. I have no problem with paying let's say $50/year for Ubuntu, because it has worked great for me.

      And here you go:
      http://www.ubuntu.com/community/donations [ubuntu.com]

      Personally, for myself, I would think with every release, $20 is warranted... Microsoft would love to fleece me of much more for the amount of computers I put it on.

      • by olden ( 772043 )

        Amen to that. I gladly donate for every OpenBSD release, because this OS works great for me as bastion host, router etc.
        Surely I can (and will) do the same for my desktop OS; their developers/maintainers deserve more than just credit after all.

    • by rzei ( 622725 )

      While making any Ubuntu non-free doesn't sound so good, Canonical could start giving people some reasons to throw money at them..

      Someone already mentioned some value adding services (like Apple does .Mac etc.) but how about throwing money at a bug?

      Users could throw 1-20€, companies even more if they don't want to pay for a subscription.

      This could work like first defining a bug, it gets confirmations, dev sees it, and it doesn't seem like too interesting to tackle with. People start throwing money at

  • Doesn't surprise me (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @10:16AM (#25569893)

    Desktop users are not the ones likely to need to purchase support contracts, aside from business environments. Every business that I've worked for that has used Linux has used Red Hat Enterprise Linux Workstation for that very reason. Canonical's big problem here is that they have taken over a market where the majority of sales come from people buying off-the-shelf licenses or through OEM sales. the only way that they could get around that would be to charge say... $20/copy of Ubuntu to Dell, Asus, etc. to provide support for their netbook users.

  • Slack vs Ubuntu (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lymond01 ( 314120 ) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @10:18AM (#25569943)

    Here at the University, our department has a few clusters and a few standalone processing machines with a bit of disk attached. We were using ROCKS on the clusters and Slackware on the standalones, but then ROCKS went south in terms of hardware recognition, installation ease, and reconfiguration ease (so says my cluster admin). Now we use Slackware on everything.

    However, when I asked him if he would like to try to use something with dependency checking, he suggested, not Debian, but Ubuntu...as he felt the server version of Ubuntu was essentially Debian anyway. Ubuntu's nice, but for us it all comes down to how easy it is to change, install our non-standard apps, and how often it requires updates.

    Thoughts from the /. community?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by GauteL ( 29207 )

      "how often it requires updates"

      I am uncertain what you mean. No Linux distribution 'requires' updates, although you are certainly encouraged to update them from a security (and stability) point of view.

      If you on the other hand mean operating system upgrades, then the Long Term Support releases from Ubuntu which comes out once a year are supported with security and stability fixes for three years (same time scale as Debian I think). This may be slightly too short for you, in case you might want to consider f

    • Anything is easier to change than Slackware; package managers and dependency checkers will make your life astoundingly easier.

      Of course, in a University environment it's not a bad thing to have to do everything from scratch, but I think it's more valuable to learn to create your own packages, etc, than to learn to manage everything from source/binaries.

      That being said, the biggest difference is likely in how "bleeding edge" the software is. Ubuntu will (necessarily) be more up to date, but that's not always

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @10:27AM (#25570083) Homepage

    Give me a Commercial version that is a bit more polished and has the important stuff already installed and ready instead of me having to go and run the installers to get everything ready. also get a "remote help" system in place so aunt millie can press "help me" and type in my email address and then I can easily help her with it, or she can call you and get paid support.

    Honestly, Ubuntu is ALMOST there. if it takes a pay for version for me to point the Friends and family at then so be it.

    • by Abreu ( 173023 )

      Yes, a reasonably-priced paid version with email support, multimedia codecs and dvd playing would be nice.

      ...of course, "reasonably-priced" is a nebulous term, so maybe we should start a donations rally instead.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by cabjf ( 710106 )
      This makes sense. Usability and polish issues aside, the biggest things holding Linux back are a consistent face behind the Operating System and perceived value. Canonical standing behind Ubuntu solves the first (note this is about desktop versions, not server). Releasing an ultra-polished pay for version would solve the second. The general public will not use something that is free because the perceived value is so low; "They're giving it away, it must not be that good."
    • The ultra-polished thing won't fly, because there's nothing preventing me from taking the polished code and stuffing it into the free version. It would just lead to a third-party release that included the goodies.

      A simple remote support system is something that should be added regardless. Yeah, you can twiddle around and get a VNC working, but a simple, preinstalled app would make Linux for the desktop much more palatable to friends and family who are nervous about problems. Ever used CrossLoop? It's a simp

      • Thanks for letting the rest of us know about that crossloop program. Should be quite useful for the various family members I act as tech support for.

  • There are ways canonical could try to raise revenue. One is by selling versions to desktop users with technical support or extras like a user guide. It could also sell t-shirts, mugs and other such things to bring in more revenue. It could even sell third party Linux books.

    • I know this option won't be popular due to the potential for how it could go completely wrong... however, they could sell app or ad space. I think that as long as Canonical is selective and restrictive about how far it goes, and as long as the users can uninstall / remove whatever apps or ads are included in the default then it could be a powerful revenue stream and I think most users would be ok with it, knowing that it's what's keeping it free and that if it annoys them they can remove it.

      Heck, even ads t

  • by GauteL ( 29207 ) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @10:35AM (#25570203)

    ... for users.

    I'm thinking easy on line storage integrated with OS and applications. Similarly they could offer backup space, email accounts, web space, picture storage and sharing,, Jabber service, OpenID, etc.

    Think ".Mac/MobileMe" style services.

    I would certainly be willing to pay a reasonable subscription fee for a nicely integrated service.

  • Open Source Funding (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rockmuelle ( 575982 ) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @10:43AM (#25570331)

    This raises an interesting point that I'd like to see /.ers discuss:

    Without the charity of well-to-do geeks or companies that fund open source development from profitable product lines, can Open Source succeed at the enterprise level?

    This thread is a good example of the first case. Sun/Open Office, the Google/Mozilla "relationship", IBM, et al./Eclipse are examples of the second as is the general practice of different companies employing Linus, Guido and a few other key people to keep Linux/Python/etc going.

    Without the strong investment from those with deep pockets, can Open Source software progress at the rate needed to remain viable in the enterprise? What happens when the product lines funding those projects start losing money?

    If you respond with counter-examples, make sure you do a proper accounting of who is really doing the development work on the project. Is it people in their spare time or is it paid workers being funded by the revenues from other projects? And, of course, focus on Open Source software that is being pushed and is _viable_ for enterprise use - hobbiest level software and boutique libraries will always have volunteers available.


    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cyxxon ( 773198 )
      I think you are missing the point here. With the GPL kind of open source software, there will always be a company who sees they can profit or at least not spend as much if they simply take available open source offerings and continue developing them instead of forking over some pile of cash to another company. In reality this is also what happened to the examples you mentioned, in a way - these companies did not suddenly create a new OSS product out of thin air, but started participating, bought other compa
    • Yes, many Open Source projects will require the funding of someone with a clear vision. Then again, that's true of non-open source software. In fact, that's true of business in general. You always need some people with money, and the willingness to invest it. You need the people with money to have the vision that the project will be successful and useful.

      Without the strong investment from those with deep pockets, can Open Source software progress at the rate needed to remain viable in the enterprise?

      The companies that support and partner with open source projects do so because they expect a real return on investment. Google funds Firefox because they

    • On the one hand... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jd ( 1658 )

      ...the Renaissance relied heavily on such donations from sponsors. People like Leonardo da Vinci simply could not have operated without them. This is a valid model to work with, as history has unquestionably shown, but it's unstable if the rich and powerful get unseated, as happens when the economy collapses.

      The other option is to have a public sector Open Source laboratory, funded through the tax system. Americans hate taxes, though, even in those cases where the alternative costs them more, gives them les

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rockmuelle ( 575982 )

        First off, I really appreciate the well-thought out comments to my original post. I was expecting some flame-worthy comments and am pleasantly surprised.

        Now, to make this a proper /. thread and go completely off-topic...

        I want to follow-up briefly on the NIOS idea, as it's one I've bandied about in academic circles for addressing the challenges facing researchers who need software for data management or simulation. The standard approach is to find a research angle and have a grad student develop the appli

  • Even the poorest of the poor who have a computer can afford $10 per release or at least per year. If you truly cannot afford that little amount, then do $5 or if you're really on hard times, then so long as everyone else donates something, they're helping out.

    Those a-holes that dozens of free Ubuntu CDs and hand them out without donating a dime piss me off. In the long run it might help as it gets Ubuntu into the hands of the people, but most of those people won't realize that they can or, IMO, should,

  • Make this offering please so I can replace these redhat boxes at work. I quit the whole redhat deal when
    they totally abandoned the desktop. I want my desktop and servers running the same os but I have to
    me able to buy support for the boss. Not that I would ever call anyhow but the boss needs to spend money
    to be happy.

  • by TheDarkener ( 198348 ) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @11:37AM (#25571253) Homepage

    I'm a network engineer, like a lot of Slashdotters here. I focus on Ubuntu & LTSP in educational type environments.

    I would *gladly* pay Canonical for upper-tier support, if it were affordable to me, the small-business. As of right now, Canonical support services [canonical.com] offers server support (which includes LTSP servers) for $750/year, PER SERVER - and this is just 9-5, weekday only, 10 "cases/issues" maximum, support. This is pretty difficult for me, as one of my clients is a 7-site elementary school district, which have all migrated to Ubuntu and LTSP. That would be US $5,250 a year. It seems that you can't span the 10 support cases over different servers, which is one of the reasons why this support model is so unattractive to me.

    It's amazing how much LTSP has developed over the past few years, but there are still tons of things that can be improved, with a little TLC and bugfixing. As it is now, I am very active in helping report and troubleshoot bugs - but again, I want support from Canonical because IANAP, and they employ people who work directly on LTSP in Ubuntu. I've heard straight from them that they just don't have enough time to work on it - and it's a shame, given the number of people with LTSP up and running. If the support model was a bit more flexible for us smaller tech businesses (usually the ones who push Linux in the first place), I think Canonical could be incredibly successful.

  • I'm not sure that servers are as great a business model as he thinks. There's a lot more competition for servers, and the desktop is Ubuntu's strength compared to other Linux distros.

    But I may be wrong... what's the big attraction for Ubuntu on a server as compared to other Linux servers?

  • As a non-professional server admin maintaining two boxes (a VPS for myself, and a webserver for a university club I belong to), I'm happy. I chose it because I'm quite familiar with Ubuntu since I use it on the desktop, and I hate RHEL.

    It's very lightweight. Server installs almost nothing by default, letting you install just what you need. After setting up the club's computer with a mail server, MySQL service, and Lighttpd, the thing was only using 37MB of RAM (nice, considering the box only has 384MB). So,

  • by refactored ( 260886 ) <<cyent> <at> <xnet.co.nz>> on Thursday October 30, 2008 @02:52PM (#25574321) Homepage Journal
    If I could go to Ubuntu's web site and see
    • "Ubuntu Linux certified laptop" on the front page,
    • not deeply buried [kegel.com] behind tons of "XXX recommends Microsoft Vista" crap...
    • at competitive price,
    • and ships to New Zealand

    I'd "click" on "buy" right now.

I bet the human brain is a kludge. -- Marvin Minsky