5 lessons for other Linux distros from the success of the Lucid Lynx

It probably now sounds like a cliche, but the Lucid Lynx is the best release Canonical has come out with since its inception. The following 5 lessons can be gleaned from the overwhelming success of Ubuntu 10.04 by other Linux distros which can go a long way to help increase the overall market share of Linux in the desktop OS market.

1.Define who your user base is
It is no longer acceptable to just put code over the kernel and call it an OS. You must define who you are targeting to use that OS. The success of the Lucid Lynx, and for that matter Ubuntu, is partly based on the fact that Ubuntu is focused on first time Linux users, those who are now making the shift to the unknown “other OS” out there.

This is reflected in every decision that is taken with regards to all spheres of development. Be sure to know who you want to use your distro, whether it’s the geek who reads his newspaper  through the Linux terminal or the granny who wants to send a birthday email to her 7th grand son.

2.You may dislike anything proprietary, but never so those who use it.

Sure you may dislike proprietary software or system in one way or the other, but never ever despise the people that use those systems. I think this simple but over looked fact is part of the success of the Lucid Lynx. As an example, I have read comments after comments of how people are now able to flawlessly use their iDevices on the Lucid without any need for fidgeting whatsoever. Other Linux distros must try as much as possible to accommodate the needs of people that use other systems, not try to shove the distros own ideals down their throat.

3.Try to become an answer
Ubuntu Studio, Lubuntu, Edubuntu, Ubuntu server among others are part of what I call the Canonical suite which helps to gain more users in that it is able to meet more needs. Do not narrowly focus on being just an OS, try to be an answer to more specialized needs.

4.Clearly define the role of your community
It is necessary to clearly define the role your user community will play in the growth and development of your OS. The faux pas that happened following the change of the window buttons from right to left in the Lucid Lynx could have had a devastating consequence had it been a smaller distro.

5.It does not hurt to apply marketing to Linux
If there is any one Open Source company that does marketing right, it is Canonical. And as is clear now, it does not hurt at all to invest some time and if possible some money to marketing your distro, it really pays.

These are the five lessons that can be gleaned from the critically acclaimed Ubuntu Lucid Lynx. I know there are more that I have not thought of and would be more than happy to have you point them out in the comments.

Ubuntu default wallpapers- Why not add some nostalgia?

One thing that changes constantly with every Ubuntu release is the default wallpaper. All the past releases have had theirs, some very nice, others not so nice. My personal favorite of all time is the Hardy Heron default wallpaper which to date, I cannot use Ubuntu without.
Hardy Default wallpaper
The upcoming Lucid Lynx release is also set to introduce its own flavor of wallpapers. What I would love to see Canonical do is to include some default wallpapers of the past Ubuntu releases in every new one. So for instance, Lucid may have the default wallpaper of Intrepid and Jaunty as part of the stack of wallpapers that it ships with.
This is just to give people a certain sense of nostalgia and also make it easy to (as is said in the local parlance here) keep in touch with the current release’s “ancestors.” Not all the past wallpapers are nice, but that of Hardy and Intrepid do not deserve to be forgotten just like that. 
Of course I can get all those from the Internet anytime, but there is a certain sense of ‘specialness’ when it comes bundled with the OS. What do you think?

Matt Assay replaces Jane Silber as Canonical COO.

Not long ago, it was announced that Jane Silber will replace Mark Shuttleworth as Canonical’s CEO leaving the position of COO vacant. Today, the commercial backer of Ubuntu has announced Matt Assay as the new COO.
Matt is the author of CNET’s popular blog The Open Road. Prior to joining Canonical, he was the VP of Business Development for Alfresco, an Open Source CMS.  He will be “responsible for aligning strategic goals and operational activities, the optimization of day-to-day operations, and leadership of Canonical marketing and back-office functions.”
A founding member of Novell’s Linux Business Office and an early influencer and  participant in the company’s move to Open Source, Matt Assay will bring to Canonical and the Ubuntu project an in depth knowledge of commercial marketing of open source
“Before Novell, Asay was General Manager at Lineo, an embedded Linux software start-up, where he ran Lineo’s Residential Gateway business. He is an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI).”
What I can infer from the recent reshuffles that have taken place in Canonical is that the company is actually reaching its growth stage where it needs veterans who know the Open Source and Free Software terrain pretty well to steer its affairs. I think Matt Assay falls right into that description. I believe it will not be long before we see a fully grown, profitable entity backing the Ubuntu project. 
You can follow Matt Assay on Twitter to get a scoop of his thoughts and what he’s up to. Matt, I wish you the best of luck!

Why Matt Zimmerman must not quit Ubuntu.

In the wake of the controversy surrounding the keynote address by Mark Shuttleworth at the Linuxcon 2009, the CTO of Canonical, Matt Zimmerman went public in voicing his opinion, suggesting that the remark his boss made was sexist. This has led to calls for him to say goodbye to Canonical because he had gone public with his views about his boss’ remark. I have a problem with such calls and really think he should not be given the boot nor pressured into leaving Canonical and for that matter Ubuntu.

First of all, whether the remark in question was sexist or not, I think is irrelevant in the sense that whatever one says is always bound to be interpreted by people in various ways. And Mark Shuttleworth, being who he is, is more prone to such human idiosyncracies. So when Matt went public with his opinion, I was not surprised he had also interpreted his boss’ speech as such. However, I am surprised at the call for his resigantion from Canonical.

Canonical, and for that matter Ubuntu, pride themselves on certain philosophies that I believe must be upheld at all times, the theme of this philosophy being tolerance and  humanity towards each other. How then can such a company throw out or pressure someone to resign because he had disagreed with his boss albeit publicly?

Matt did not make his statement on behalf of Canonical, he made his statement as an individual. Yes he should have waited to watch the video again and  be sure of the context in which his boss made the remark before going public. Yes he should have exercised a little restraint in his rush to air his opinions, but that is also precisely the reason why I think Canonical should not fire him nor bring any pressure to bear on him to resign.

This is an opportunity for Mark Shuttleworth and the team over at Canonical to prove to the world that they do stand by the philosophies that they tout. They should prove to the world the level of tolerance they have for all people and how they are willing to still be with people who disagree with them. This will go a long way to help further the growth of Ubuntu for people will know that yes, the philosophies behind it are not empty cliches. Firiing Matt Zimmerman or bringing pressure to bear on him will not do any good to Ubuntu or Canonical: it will only serve to tell people how intolerable the people behind the Ubuntu distro are.

Do you think Matt Zimmerman should quit Canonical? Please share your thoughts.

Ubuntu business model- a misunderstood concept

Canonical, the business arm of Ubuntu, has one of the  most promising business models in the Linux world, and also the most misunderstood. First of all, Ubuntu is in a market termed by economists as a perfectly competitive market. This means that it cannot charge any price beyond that which is determined by the market. The only way to make profit, as has rightly been identified by Canonical is to create an ecosystem of products and services around Ubuntu, which would complement the functions of the OS.
This is model of making profit is not new. There are other companies that make money from this method. Give the primary product for free but then create other value added products and services that complements this primary product. To make profit from this kind of business model takes time and a lot of investment. Mark Shuttleworth, the financial backbone of the Ubuntu project  rightly knows so and is doing exactly that. Most critics of the Ubuntu distro, are convinced that it’s only a matter of time before Ubuntu also capitulates like its predecessors for lack of funds. They couldn’t be further from reality.
The fact that Canonical after six years of existence is not making any profit does not spell any doom, neither does it mean there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Most of the distros that are always used as yardsticks to tell how Ubuntu is bound to wither away did not have any other strategic business model in place. They only offered a Linux distro and expected to make money from it. Some also did not have a thorough understanding of the market in which they operated. Ubuntu so far has not fallen in any of those traps.
The recent partnerships between Canonical and big shot OEMs like Dell and IBM only goes to underscore the fact that the Ubuntu business model has a lot of potential. Companies like Dell and IBM will not partner a distro that they do not believe to have a future. Their partnering with Canonical to offer Ubuntu only underscores one fact- there is light at the end of the tunnel for Ubuntus profitability.
Also, there are those that claim Ubuntu is an ugly, over-hyped distro by mostly fanboys like myself. Well they have the right to their opinions, but a thorough analysis of Ubuntu tells you that it is in the news virtually every other day. Not a day or two passes without Ubuntu being in the news. Count how many times this week that you’ve heard of the name Ubuntu in the news and you will understand why it is popular. As for the ugliness, I believe it takes time to get used to. I also initially disliked the brown, but when I got used to it, I could hardly like any other color or theme.
The fact remains, that Ubuntu despite all the short comings of its commercial backer like not contributing enough upstream or not giving enough back to the community, is an OS that has the potential to be a market leader in the desktop Linux OS market and whether critics agree or not, Ubuntu will for the foreseeable remain a popular, first choice OS for a lot of people.

5 things that make Ubuntu Linux the most promising Linux distro in the world.

Ubuntu Linux is, without doubt, poised to be the Windows of the Linux world in the future. Giving the aggressive moves being undertaken by Canonical, Ubuntu’s parent company, I have no doubt that Ubuntu is sure to become the flagship OS of the Linux world. The following 5 points should help clarify my view.
The philosophies that underlie Ubuntu are very noble tenets that virtually everybody would love to align themselves to. This makes it’s usage more appealing to lots of people from divergent cultures and belief systems.
Ease of use.
There are those that will disagree with this point. However, relatively speaking, it is the most easy to use Linux distro out there. It’s appeal to lots of new users attests to this fact. This makes it more and more appealing to prospective users and thus further future popularity.
Rate of growth.
Ubuntu is, without doubt, the fastest growing Linux distro out there. The future of any OS depends largely on its current growth rate, Ubuntu passes this litmus test with flying colors.
User base
Ubuntu has one of the largest, if not the largest user base of any Linux distro out there. And by user base, I mean users that are deeply attached to the OS. Users that deeply love and staunchly publicize their OS with more coming on board everyday. Such users can only move the distro to higher heights.
Market Expansion
Given the recent spate of expansion of the ecosystem surrounding Ubuntu- from Ubuntu One, Ubuntu Cloud, Ubuntu Server, Ubuntu -Dell partnership among others- there is no gainsaying  that Ubuntu is sure to be the Linux distro of choice in the future for both individuals and corporate customers.
For these five and possibly more other reasons, i strongly believe that Ubuntu stands among the lot as the most promising OS in the Linux world.
What do you think? Do you agree about Ubuntu’s future position as the market leader in the Linux distro world? Share your thoughts.

Free and Open Source Software, dogmatism and the real world.

One of the best things that ever happened to the world of computing was the advent of Free and Open Source software, whose fundamental objective was and is to give people the freedom that proprietary software never offers. This a very noble cause that has to be given all the necessary support it deserves.
However, there does not seem, at least from where I stand, to be any proper definition of who FOSS defines as its target audience. I arrived at this observation after reading lots of articles about how some big shots in the FOSS movement are fuming with rage about the supposed “pollution” of Open Source by some elements of proprietary inputs.  If I understand correctly – and please correct me if I am wrong- those who are being accused of this ” treason” do so for a reason that I totally agree with.
Chief among the culprits in this “crime” is Canonical’s Ubuntu for containing the controversial Mono. It is my understanding that the proprietary inputs are used to help make interoperability across the various platforms easy. There are people who, for one reason or the other cannot totally migrate to Linux or Open Source, and must live in both worlds. Making things easy for such people to be able to use FOSS in some part of their lives is a worthwhile effort.
Besides, these so called proprietary pollutants, have gone a long way to move Free and Open Source software to the masses and brought it to the lime light. In as much as I believe in the preservation of the pristine values of FOSS, I also think more must be taken into consideration rather than sticking too much with ideological dogma that in the long run will only be inimical to the growth of FOSS.
If the target user group of FOSS is those who are currently using proprietary software, who mostly just don’t care about any ideological or dogmatic beliefs and just want systems that work and help them accomplish their goals, then if including some elements of proprietary software in the various source codes of Open Source will help in accommodating the needs of such people, so be it.
Frankly, I think this dogmatic belief system is being taken too far, neglecting the reality on the ground, that people have different needs and those needs cannot not be satisfied by blind insistence on some dogma. Yes Open Source must preserve its fundamental principles, but not at the expense of the alienation of the very people it claims to have been founded to liberate.

Ubuntu Linux – To love and to hate.

Ubuntu Linux is, arguably, the most popular Linux distro around today, with millions of people who deeply love it. There are  some people however, who, for some reasons, do not just want to hear the mention of Ubuntu especially if it has to do with converting someone to Linux.
I seriously have a problem with such people and their line of argument. I for one, use Ubuntu as my reference distro anytime I try to explain what Linux is to people. I use Ubuntu because it is what I think newbies will find comfortable using. I in no way ever represent Ubuntu as synonymous with Linux. I always tell prospective Linux converts that there are hundreds of distros they can choose from, but to make things easy for them, I encourage them to start with Ubuntu and if they get to make headway in the world of Linux, then they can go on to try others.
These anti-Ubuntu elements, spend time bashing people like me and those who do as I do, saying we tend to make people think Ubuntu is all that Linux has to offer. Such people are just time wasters. First of all, the question that they are supposed to answer is that why is Ubuntu, a distro that is less than six years old so popular with people from all walks of life and has become the preferred choice for 9 out of 10 Linux noobs?
The fact that Canonical does not contribute to the upstream development of the Linux kernel, or that Ubuntu contains some element of proprietary software, does not negate the fact that a lot of work has gone into Ubuntu and that has started paying off. The popularity of Ubuntu was not achieved on a silver, it was worked for by the guys and gals at Canonical.
To simply dislike Ubuntu because of some reason is understandable, but to say because you dislike Ubuntu so others should not recommend it would be going to far. In any case, the argument that it’s not right to recommend a particular distro to someone you are converting to Linux just doesn’t wash. There are hundreds of distros out there and trust me, 95% of all newbies will just get overwhelmed when left on their own to choose. Most will end up choosing none and just return to Windows or MacOS. That in the grand scheme of things, will not be in the interest of Linux.
So to the critics of Ubuntu, I say we love Ubuntu, and we do so for a reason. There is no sense in criticizing ourselves when we are supposed to work together against a much larger and formidable opponent. To love or to hate Ubuntu? I choose to love Ubuntu. What about you?

Ubuntu Linux – 5 things to stem the tide of Windows 7.

Come this October, Windows 7 will go on sale, and this release, I strongly believe will be one of the greatest challenges Linux will ever face. Ubuntu Linux will also make a release within that same time and given the generally positive reviews that Windows 7 has received, it is going to be a very difficult time for Canonical to market Ubuntu. This is because every review of the new  Ubuntu release is going to be relative to Windows 7 which has so far received  positive reviews from a large section of the public . It is in this regard that I believe the following five points, when strategically marketed by Canonical, can help it to stem the tide of the gigantic Windows 7..
Ubuntu Server / Virtualization
First on the list is that Canonical must focus more on promoting the server aspect of the Ubuntu OS. Yes Ubuntu is widely known an excellent desktop OS, but very few know that Ubuntu also has a server OS that has been certified to run on several server configurations including HP’s Proliant range of servers and others from Dell, IBM, Lenovo among others. ISVs like Alfresco and Openbravo also have enterprise  products built on Ubuntu server edition. There is also the Canonical-IBM  Virtual Bridges  partnerships that aims at virtualizing Ubuntu desktops on Linux servers. These are very important components of the Ubuntu OS that Canonical must publicize to help it stand up to the new Windows 7.
More and more OEMs are now shipping their systems with Ubuntu Linux preinstalled, notable amongst them being Dell (who now ship their systems with Ubuntu 9.04) and more niche manufacturers like Zareason and System76. Canonical must make this kind of partnerships more known to the masses since people tend to have confidence in an OS when OEMs choose to preinstall it and also gives the OS a more professional appeal.
Cloud is the future of computing and Canonical must tell the world Ubuntu’s readiness for the cloud. The Enterprise cloud service from Canonical must be highly publicized to inform people of its existence.
Given the fact that more and more people are now carrying out their tasks on the go, Ubuntu must be placed in such a strategic position as to be an option for people when it comes to mobile computing. The UNR must be more aggressively marketed to this end.
Training / Support
The traditional norm used to be that users of Ubuntu had to turn to the Ubuntu Forums for support. This really did not do a lot of good to the OS in the enterprise market. However, Canonical now offers a variety of support services that have been tailored to meet the needs of its users. This must be made know to all users and prospective ones as well. There is also now formal training from Canonical for both corporate and individual Ubuntu users. This is a very good move which when properly developed over time, can grow to rival Microsoft’s MSCE. This is a strong advantage that must be marketed as well.
The list can go on, but these are what I strongly feel should be very well publicized by Canonical if Ubuntu stands a chance of sustaining the success it has chalked over the years especially at the expense of the unprecedented disappointment of Windows Vista.
What do you think can be done to sustain the growth of Ubuntu in the face of the relatively positive reviews Windows 7 has received? Please share your thoughts.

Ubuntu release cycle – An albatross for Canonical?

In just under two months, there is going to be a new release of Ubuntu nicknamed Karmic Koala. There has been a lot of hype in the Ubuntudom about how this release is going to be the one we’ve all been waiting for. I sincerely hope it will be so. However, for some time now, it seems that the number of bugs that are reported for each release just keeps increasing. This is a very disturbing trend that in my view can be attributed to the rigid release cycle that Canonical has imposed upon itself.
The current Ubuntu release cycle which is twice a year has its advantages. Key amongst them being that it puts Ubuntu on the headlines twice every year. This is good. But is it not just too rigid? Releasing an OS entails a lot of testing which requires time. The time between one release and the next is just not enough to carry out a more extensive testing. The current release in April this year had some of the highest number of bugs reported. It looked more like a beta release than a stable release. This does not help in the quest for a  wider adoption of Ubuntu.
Mark Shuttleworth, the founder and life patron of the Ubuntu project, had promised a new theme and interface for Ubuntu for sometime now. This however, keeps getting postponed. I am of the view that  the release cycle should be given a second look. It could be reviewed to nine months instead of the current six months if that means we get a release which is stable and has less bugs. I also strongly do not think the current twice per annum release is helping Ubuntu in the enterprise market.
It is good to have regular releases in order to give users a cutting edge OS, but that should be balanced with stability and extensive pre-release testing . It seems the two times per year release cycle has become an albatross for Canonical which has to be really looked at again. I know the LTS release is generally more stable than the normal releases. But I still think more can be done to make the normal releases also relatively stable enough and the release cycle is a very important factor.
Do you think the current Ubuntu release cycle is helping Ubuntu? Do you agree with the six month release cycle? Should it be reviewed? Share your thoughts. Talkback!