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Why Mark Shuttleworth Is Important to Desktop Linux

If you want to see desktop Linux finally get some traction with the unwashed public, Mark Shuttleworth is more likely to be the guy who’ll make that happen than anyone who’s come along so far. He’s a capitalist and for better or worse this is a capitalist world. He knows that nothing big is going to get done on this market oriented planet without the art of the deal and some hustle. He also understands something about fit and finish, which was always lacking in desktop Linux until he came along.

For too long, we’ve been sitting around wringing our hands, sometimes proclaiming this to finally be the year of the Linux desktop without doing anything to make it happen and sometimes bemoaning the fact that the world still hasn’t discovered Linux as the secret to computing happiness. The thing is, the world never knows anything about secrets until they’re not secret anymore. We’ve been wanting Linux to just “catch on,” while we’ve been blaming the OEMs for not automatically pushing our home grown geek-centric distros with the same elan they put behind their bread and butter Windows.

Windows is a success not merely because of Ballmer’s bullying. Whether we want to admit it or not, Microsoft has been putting in a lot of work pounding the pavement selling Windows, while none of our desktop distros have been making legitimate marketing efforts where it matters.

If we had real sales people wearing out shoe leather trying to get a foot in the door, long ago we would have realized that our superior operating system is only superior to computer savvy users who are able to fix what they break and configure what they buy and who have the patience to figure-out things like why a configuration made in the KDE UI disappears at reboot. Hint–it might be because that particular configuration in your particular distro must be made in the distro’s configuration panel which overwrites anything done in KDE’s panel, even though it’s a KDE configuration. How many grandmothers will figure that out?

From what I’ve seen of Canonical and Ubuntu, Shuttleworth understands all of this. He’s a business guy who’s also a computer guy. It helps that he’s filthy rich. When a rich guy raises his voice just a little bit, the world jumps as if being taken by surprise by a bullhorn from behind. Being rich also means you can pay your bills and keep people working while you’re waiting for your vision to manifest.

I don’t like Ubuntu. I won’t use it. It’s way too mainstream for this old hippie. But that’s just my personal preference. In truth, it’s a damn fine operating system, maybe the best consumer oriented OS to come out of Linux ever. I use Bodhi, which is built on Ubuntu, a fact that was almost a deal breaker for me. Since I’ve become a Bodhi user, however, I’ve become very impressed with the “Ubuntu inside.” Bodhi is a much better distro than it ever could be if it didn’t have Ubuntu DNA.

Shuttleworth, you see, seems to understand fit and finish.

You can go to the Yugo factory, give them the blueprints for a Cadillac and they’ll produce a vehicle that looks like a Cadillac but which is still, essentially, a Yugo. I don’t know about now, but in the old days a Chevy and a Cadillac were pretty much the same car. Same engine, same frame, same basic body design–but if you got behind the wheel of a Cadillac and rolled that baby down the road, there was no confusing the experience with that of driving a Chevy.

We don’t like the fact that Shuttleworth has dropped X and Wayland for Mir, or that he’s decided to go it alone with Unity instead of remaining true to GNOME. So what? We’ll get over it. It’s not our decision to make. If he’s not going to be able to mold his Linux distro into something he thinks he can market, why doesn’t he just take Debian out of the box, slap the Ubuntu brand on it and try to market that? Is that what we want him to do?

Let Mr. Shuttleworth do what the frack he thinks he needs to do. He’s pouring tons of money into R&D that’s helping us all. If he’s successful and gets the Edge to fly, then we’ll see HP and Dell crawling all over each other to be the first to bring out a Ubuntu desktop, laptop, tablet and anything else they can think up that might stick to the wall.

You and I still won’t have to use Ubuntu on anything. We can continue using Debian, Slack, CrunchBang, Bodhi, Arch–take your pick. We’ll still all gain from the R&D that’s being done. It’ll all end up being GPLed. We’ll all get to use any of it we want. Certainly, I’ll never use Ubuntu, but I’m already benefiting from the work the Canonical folks have done, just as I’m benefiting from the work done by Red Hat and SUSE, which I have also not used on a PC and probably never will.

The argument that Shuttleworth isn’t returning back to the community doesn’t fly. He’s not Steve Jobs. He’s not taking open source code and making it proprietary. He’s not stealing from us. He’s making stuff, he’s doing things and, by gawd, untold millions know about Linux now who’d never heard of us before he came along.

I don’t like big business. If it was up to me, the economy would run on the mom and pop level. But we don’t live in that kind of world. If we want Linux to succeed, we need people like Shuttleworth.


  1. kurkosdr kurkosdr August 1, 2013

    Shuttleworth-hating seems to be the new sport of the Linuxworld. Basically the communitah wants everyone to do things as the communitah wants. If you do things differently, they ‘ll treat you like they treat Shuttleworth. As a distro vendor, you are supposed to use one of the desktop environments they tell you to, and the graphics stack they tell you to (then, now Wayland). This has led to the unfortunate phenomenon of the Taco Bell Distro Strategy, where, much like the meals of Taco Bell, all distros look different from each other superficially, but under the hood ALL of them are made from the same materials. So much about FOSS being all about Choice and the Right To Modify. And what if the chosen materials (for example Wayland) don’t end up being what the market wants? Will Linux be stuck with a graphics stack the market doesn’t want for another 20 years? Where is the choice? At least Mir provides a choice, a plan B if you want. I ‘ve got to give Shuttleworth one thing: Ignoring the neckbeards that are holding Linyx back.

  2. Andrew Andrew August 1, 2013

    I honestly think “Desktop Linux” will become less and less important as the consumer market moves to tablets. It was already a difficult market to penetrate, and as you see Windows struggling in this segment it only makes it that much more difficult for alternative platforms.

    As for Bodhi I’d argue that if it were based on Debian it would be every bit as good. 😉

  3. Eddie G. Eddie G. August 2, 2013

    As far as I am concerned I applaud Mr. Shuttleworth’s decisions regarding Ubuntu….the Edge device….the desktop interface he’s chosen to use and the underlying stack and components there. If there’s one thing that drew me to Linux in the beginning, it was “choice”! Even if Ubuntu goes a different route later on down the line of it’s existence, I can always CHOOSE to either use it or not. And while it’s not my main OS, it IS one of my steady backups! The biggest problem with the Open Source Community?….we’re all so busy bickering that we can’t see the big picture, if we were to take the same enthusiasm that we use to “beat up” on the different distros and developers, and use it to promote Linux in all aspects,we might see some real traction in the advancement of Linux everywhere. I can’t really fault the Apple’s and Microsoft’s out there, they are truly pushing their product out the front door…..while we sit and trash-talk Mr. Shuttleworth…and anything else we don’t like about a certain distro, or desktop environment, or office suite, media player, file browser..etc. Think its time to grow up and move on! Find the distro that “works” for you….and use it, if you feel like switching up, then by all means DO it! But for the love of swiss cheese & chocolate, PLEASE staop the nonsensical yammeing about what it is you DON’T like…

  4. Bruno Martins Bruno Martins August 2, 2013

    I just think Canonical should give more back to the community, and the kernel, specifically.

    Open source is a matter of taking but also giving back.

  5. JHB JHB August 2, 2013

    Mark Shuttleworth understands that mobile is the future, and that is the road to the desktop, or whatever will be left of the desktop.
    I must say I am disappointed with the so called open source community. The Ubuntu Edge is the most important device we have to send a signal to business that the market for Linux desktops, and full linux phones are big enough to invest in, but the lame excuses on the forums that there is for example a binary portion of the driver, so I won’t support the project etc.
    If this project took off, and was really successful, future iterations would have the clout to demand open source drivers for everything, because there would be a financial incentives for the hardware manufacturer.
    It is fine to have principles etc, but sometimes you have to wake up and look at the long term and the bigger picture.
    Also people complaining $800 is too expensive for this phone, and compare it to the prices of phones that cannot do half. Besides, you can also donate to the project to help it, no need to buy the phone, although buying the phone is a better signal.
    Leaving X and Wayland and creating Unity was in any case necessary to move to the future of mobile computing. Even Microsoft understands that, but apparently not the “open source community”.
    By the way, I am an OpenSuSE user (no Windows for around 10 years) that may be moving to Ubuntu in the not too distant future

  6. Marco Marco August 2, 2013

    Excellent reflection, I fully agree with your thoughts

  7. Günther Schmidts Günther Schmidts August 2, 2013

    What this article fails to mention is that it is not the decisions themselves that are making people angry but the way canonical chooses to communicate them. That is causing the bad blood.

    Look at the recent mir announcement:

    First canonical announced that they are going to push for wayland.

    Then suddenly the whole wayland thing is so broken that mir had to come to the rescue. That has to hurt the feelings of the people that were promised help earlier (which by the way never materialized as far as I can see… maybe all the canonical employees are using private email addresses for their contributions though).

    That none of the technical weaknesses cited to be in wayland held any water (and had to be removed from the announcement just a couple of days later) did not help the matter at all. Many people got the impression that canonical is deliberately bad-mouthing wayland to gain a bit of traction for mir.

    Also note that no promises were made to help with gtk/Qt/whatever toolkit. All of them will require significant work to play nice with mir… Canonical did not step up to do that work. So people are angry that canonical seems to expect other people to do their work in addition to making the toolkits themselves rock:-)

    Yes, I do agree with this article: Everybody will get over it. It is just hurt emotions after all. But much of that hurt could have been avoided in the first place — had canonical come better preparation.

    What I do not fully agree with is that we all are going to profit from Mark’s investment into R&D: So far canonical has avoided other people from profiting too much by making it basically impossible to get any of the code running anywhere else but on ubuntu.

    Check launchpad: Fully open source (except for the icons), but impossible to set up on a private non-development-only machine.

    Check unity: How many distributions ship that? Most claim they can not even get it to built reliable, much less package up and ship it!

    I am very much afraid that mir will be the same: Code that is impossible to be build reliably anywhere but on an unstable installation of ubuntu.

    This would seriously hinder adoption of the whole display server! KDE already stated that they will reject patches for mir support as long as they can not test them on their opensuse based build servers. Other projects are sure to have similar requirements. So I am still somewhat optimistic that canonical will actually take some time to make mir work elsewhere. But considering the time frame set for mir-introduction into ubuntu as well as the track record of canonical I am not very optimistic.

  8. Mikko Mikko August 2, 2013

    “He’s not Steve Jobs. He’s not taking open source code and making it proprietary.”

    That may be true, but Shuttleworth also doesn’t seem to have the sense of design that Jobs had. It’s one thing to recognize the importance of “fit and finish” and another to be a good designer or a good design leader. I haven’t been all that impressed with the design that has come from Canonical so far. I’m a Gnome Shell user, and both Unity and Gnome Shell feel like partial regressions compared to Gnome 2. Both obviously take their cues from Apple, but once again, Apple seems to have managed to evolve the desktop UI without throwing the baby out with the bathwater, unlike Gnome Shell and Unity.

    The same goes for Ubuntu Edge. I’m not sure that convergence as proposed by Shuttleworth is all that great an idea. I use a sports tracker on my smartphone. I don’t particularly want to take my primary, 800-dollar computer with me when I go running. I don’t want to keep copies of my files on a cloud server somewhere, and if my files are in my primary computer, I don’t want take it with me when I go jogging. I frequently answer my phone while working with my computer at my desk, and then walk around my home as I chat on the phone and take a break from work. I wouldn’t particularly want to unplug my computer from the desktop setup to do this. Etc. etc. Merging one’s primary computer with a mobile phone seems to create as many problems as it solves.

    It goes without saying that Canonical always faced a tremendous uphill battle on the desktop, since Microsoft was already in a monopoly position and leveraged it very effectively with the OEMs. Now Android has a 80 % share of the worldwide smartphone market. I’m afraid that Ubuntu Phone and Edge are simply too late to the party, no matter how great Shuttleworth’s design genius. Being incompatible with Android is just too expensive in every way (and I having a glued-on compatibility layer doesn’t count).

  9. Mike Mike August 2, 2013

    Sure, let him do what he does, but benefits for me? Canonical is pulling an Apple-lite, RedHat is shoving systemd and udev (+ all the *kits) down my throat and GNOME is actively killing everything GTK(3).

    It used to be mix’n’match and I’m very happy esp. Gentoo and Arch are working to keep it that way.

    I see RedHat having a vision, but imho they’re doing it wrong and I don’t see where Ubuntu is headed to, except for a brickwall. Every big media outlet already says to avoid Ubuntu and take Mint, SUSE or Fedora as an alternative and I’m sure it’ll get worse.

    I don’t want more people to use Linux based system, I want a good system. If it’s good, people will come anyways, but spraypainting the UI and packing abstraction layer over layer over layer isn’t gonna do it.

    At least, there’s always the BSDs to run to if it ever is needed.

  10. Andrew Andrew August 2, 2013

    @Mike – these reasons you’ve listed are why I just started using Windows at home and CentOS at work.

    Linux used to be the platform for stability (and it still is on a server), but now it’s just crafted by zomgshiny .. squirrel .. squirrel tail chasers.

  11. mark mark August 2, 2013

    Who needs a monopoly on open source? Swithed to Crunchbang Waldorf and couldn’t be happier. BTW, Mac is a better desktop and no stupid snooping/shopping lenses built into Spotlight.

  12. McKinnon McKinnon August 2, 2013

    I agree that some people have excessive negativity about Shuttleworth. As if the whole ‘choice is what makes linux awesome’ argument breaks down when someone chooses to fund development of something that you dislike.

    I am singularly unimpressed by his vision, however. The addition of ads onto a desktop OS was insulting as well. He produces buggy, crappy software, and for that I have no respect for him. I do however hope he enjoys his right to exercise choice in the world of linux.

    Ubuntu is something I have never been impressed with. I have only used it a few times- in each case it was for someone else and I wanted it to ‘just work.’ It always performed far worse at ‘just working’ than even my favorites, debian and slackware. Mint is a far better option if you want a user friendly distro.

    Ubuntu does not have ‘good DNA.’ It is released on a 6 month schedule, ready or not. Debian, which Ubuntu is built from has good DNA. Other distros based on Ubuntu which correct the bugs in Ubuntu have good DNA. Ubuntu is the windows vista of the linux world- flashy, new, and buggy.

    Everyone says that ‘Ubuntu is the best distro for beginners,’ but notice that there’s no data for that. It’s not the kind of thing you can empirically measure. The truth is that since Ubuntu has a marketing department, it gets hyped and people hear about it.


  13. Gerard Gerard August 2, 2013

    The only way Canonical and Red Hat can profit from Linux over the long term is if they put their own stamp on what they sell. Canonical with their custom display server, and Red Hat with systemd.

    It is a classic case of “Divide and conquer”, no less shameful than the kind of shenanigans Microsoft got up to when they introduced their own so-called Open Document Format in order to split the market to their own advantage. They can rely on the vast majority of customers not knowing about these things, and thus ending up tied into the provider over the long term.

    If you think it’s somehow worthy of praise for these businesses to bend the market to suit themselves, to the disadvantage of the open-source people who have put them where they are and continue to put them where they are, you are grossly mistaken. There is already pressure on the smaller Linux distributions and on the BSDs as a direct result of the outright selfish attitude of the likes of Canonical.

    I often wonder who these people are really working for. Just when the Linux desktop was shaping up as a mature alternative along came Gnome 3 to set it back 20 years. Along came Mir and Unity and Wayland to set it back once more.

    Qui bono? Think about it.

  14. Rhy Rhy August 2, 2013


    Every decision he’s made has been bad for the end user, and therefore bad for Linux. Look at the vast array of distros that has grown up around trying to fix what Canonical has broken!

    Unless Linux Mint or something sensible gains traction, Microsoft will get another chance to dominate the computer world after their mis-step (yet again!) with Windows 8.

    Honestly Microsoft has done so consistently poorly these last 10 years, it’s rather telling how unsuccessful Linux has been during that same time. /me is sad for humanity that egomaniacs like Shuttlesworth are limiting our ability to grow and develop as a species.

  15. Carlos Carlos August 2, 2013


  16. joker joker August 2, 2013

    thanks for this article
    I agree with everything!

  17. YellowApple YellowApple August 2, 2013

    I don’t mind Unity. I don’t particularly mind Mir (I don’t like it, either). I don’t really mind Upstart, either.

    What I *do* mind, however, are cases where Shuttleworth/Canonical refuses to see the flaws in their ideas. His nonchalant dismissal of the obvious privacy issues regarding the Shopping Lens – and the numerous recommendations that would have still permitted Amazon integration without causing a massive security and privacy hole – is what degraded my prior admiration of his goals, and what subsequently drove me away from Ubuntu entirely.

    To this day, I don’t look back. The new Linux users I’ve introduced aren’t introduced to Ubuntu, but instead to openSUSE or Debian, or perhaps a non-Unity *buntu like Lubuntu or Xubuntu (don’t even get me started on Linux Mint, though; MATE is Mint’s *only* saving grace). The majority of my machines run Slackware, with one Debian machine and one Softlanding Linux System box being the exceptions (for now; I’m installing openSUSE on my laptop sometime tonight, just because I’ve grown to like it quite a bit, and because I’d like to start pushing it at work).

  18. Simmons Simmons August 2, 2013

    Thanks for the article!

    Some people still do not get it, and you can see them in your comments section.
    Without Ubuntu, the GNU/Linux marketshare would be abysmal.

  19. salparadise salparadise August 2, 2013

    to figure-out things like why a configuration made in the KDE UI disappears at reboot.
    That would be because you didn’t do it right. I have no such problems with KDE, nor ever have, in 11 years of use.

    How many grandmothers will figure that out?
    You should check out Helios’s blog, he’s documented at least one who did that and more. You seem to imply that the old are simple and unable to work things out for themselves. A tad patronising?

    I stopped reading at that point.


  20. dragonmouth dragonmouth August 2, 2013

    “Windows is a success not merely because of Ballmer’s bullying. ”
    No, Windows is a success because of Bill Gates bullying all hardware manufacturers into restrictive contracts to install only Windows on their computers. Have you forgotten the contracts that called for computer manufacturers to pay Microsoft for each unit they produced, whether they installed Windows on it or another O/S? Have you forgotten Mr. Bill giving the manufacturers a choice of installing only Windows and getting volume discounts or installing other O/Ss and paying retail for each copy of Windows they bught from Microsoft? Most computer makers knuckled under and installed only Windows. That information came out during the US v Microsft trials of 1995-96. With that kind of contracts, Windows had an instant 500 million or so user lead on any other O/S. Microsoft salesmen did not have to wear out too many shoes. Maybe later when Jobs came back to Apple and now when Linux is spreading, MS salesforce finally had to start earning their keep.

    You are right that Shuttleworth is a capitalist and that Linux needs a capitalist. But Shuttleworth is also a Bill Gates wannabe. From its inception, Shuttleworth wanted to make Canonical into the Microsoft of Linux world and Ubuntu into the Windows of Linux. With each successive release Ubuntu got more and more monolithic and restrictive. Microsoft is trying to force everybody to use the Metro interface, Canonical is forcing Unity on Ubuntu users. Microsoft came out with a Windows phone and Surface, Canonical gave us Ubuntu Edge. Shuttleworth will not rest until Canonical and Ubuntu ARE Linux. Mark Shuttleworth’s philosophy is antithetical to all that Linux stands for.

  21. meanpt meanpt August 2, 2013

    I can’t foresee anything good for canonical in the portable touch devices’ market. To start with, they came late, they’re followers without any real differentiation besides some aesthetics. In fact, they follow the same privacy ripping business model. Finally, they seem to not understand that their product isn’t smartphones, but rather an open source Linux OS for smartphones, but without the linux opensource echosystem of applications to support it. So, with whom are they trying to compete? What market and consumers are they trying to serve? Oh, these are some damned silly questions.

  22. Valentin Valentin August 2, 2013

    I`m tired of this “Year of the Linux Desktop” thing. It has been several years since I have been using linux on both desktop and servers and there are several conclusions that I have got to:

    1. Linux is extraordinary on servers, disregarding the distro. OS X folows on the seccond place and MS on third (with AD being the most important feature that makes me put MS in this top).

    2. As a student in Engineering, as a SysAdmin and a passionate of photo and video editing (I work as a sysadmin in a tv station), I have discovered that there is no operating system as good as OS X or Windows on a laptop. I need performance, autonomy and great apps (adobe suite, royal ts, etc). Sorry, but no linux distro allows me to work without issues on my thinkpad.

    3. Both OS X and Windows have a lot to learn from Linux, but Linux has to learn a lot from OS X and Windows. (just in terms of desktops).

    4. Android is the distro that has already managed to bring the “Year of the Linux Desktop” thing. And no Ubuntu, Fedora, ARCH or openSuse will manage to do that. After Android, Raspberry PI made more good to the Linux Market Share than any other project.

    5. There can never be a good, free and great Desktop OS. I wish there was a distro that would ask for money (RHEL style), but with state of the art packages. I would probably pay for it.

    As a side note, I use CentOS and Ubuntu on all of my servers and routers and I have used Fedora, Arch, Debian, Ubuntu and OpenSUSE in the past. I have written them in the order of preference. Still… the main machine that I use to work (SysAdmin things, Video editing and Photo editing) is a ThinkPad which recently got a update to Windows 8. Chances are the next notebook will be a Mac, but I will never use linux on a desktop untill developpers manage to grow up and work together. On the server side linux is unbeatable.

  23. DanEboy DanEboy August 2, 2013

    Taking a slightly different view… until someone like Shuttleworth releases something that satisfies the user with a Linux OS that runs Microsoft software 100% without ANY issues, we’re all going to be having the same conversation in another five or ten years time.
    Sure, the new Edge phone is a great idea, but it won’t be 100% compatible with WindowsXP or Win7, or have a 41megapixel camera built in!!!
    To really take the wind out of Microsoft’s sails, Shuttleworth missed the golden opportunity to have an OS which bridged the competition’s OS with his own.
    He’s climbing a mountain when it need only have been a hill! LOL!

  24. syncdram syncdram August 2, 2013

    Let shuttleworth poor as much of his money as he wants, bottom line is it will be nothing more than a one hit wonder. Android, apple and microsoft already fill the consumer needs quite richly.

  25. Francisco Francisco August 2, 2013

    I feel ashamed with all these negative commentaries… “android, apple and microsoft already fill consumer needs quite richly”??!! That’s one of the most stupid things I’ve heard in a long time.

    I endorse any initiative that foster evolution. Look at the prospect, Canonical even proposed if the Edge reached its goal it would be an annual project where *backers* could vote for specs, look at the alternatives!, at one side you have a corporate culture that tells you customers don’t know what they want, at another side, you have a corporate culture of technology stagnation and control. Long Live Ubuntu!

    You see, I have good memories from old ShipIt times, where one could go to the Ubuntu site, request a CD pack and it got home nicely packaged and even accompanied with nice stickers, all for free.

    Ubuntu has done a lot. I just feel ashamed of these people, sad.

  26. Moses Lee Moses Lee August 3, 2013

    If there is no Mark Shuttleworth, no Canonical and no Ubuntu, we may never see Linux in use by the thousand of students. What happened to the the first (Xandros based) Asus netbook? We need someone who have the gut and (financial) muscle to push Linux to the mass.

  27. Jake Jake August 3, 2013

    I’ve installed and used more Linux than I can name from Austrumi to Zenwalk[very nice,stable & quick], but I always come back to a Puppy which I’ve run since 1998. There’s nothing a Puppy can’t do that I want done from cloning disks to burning bluray. With GRUB I multiboot 3 or more Linux on every machine. I tried Bodhi ’cause it has E17, but MacPup is way better–at around 200MB. My Puppies recognize up to 64GBRAM.

    Tablets–don’t get me started. 1st they’re just spy devices for BB, Goog, or Apple–they won’t function if you don’t suck up with email address+. And apps? WTHeck! Even Damn Small [50MB]comes as a functional near desktop, file manager, text eds, & AbiWord, and all the A/V you want to fool with. Buy apps? Ya gotta be nuts. 2nd, tablets aren’t computers in the sense of work and productivity. My Acer netbook is only a pound heavier than my BBPlaybook[.9lbs], & a half a pound heavier than my Archos 101 Gen9, and it’s got a kybd, better res, standard ports, 4GB ram 128GB SSD. I really can’t understand the fasination with tabs & phones[goog says the Archos is a phone], but then I don’t have a phone; I got the tabs to check out the tab world. Not impressed, they don’t even use real browswers; and where’s the file managers? They sorta have media managers. Only had the tabs for two days so maybe I’ll find more. But it comes down to this: I all ready know how to use various Linux & even MSFTW, although mostly I don’t, why learn another spying tracking sell your info OS?

  28. arjaybe arjaybe August 3, 2013

    Of course, the “Year of the Linux Desktop” is a silly notion. It has been for well over a decade, and we all knew it. The only time anyone brought it up was for irony or disparagement. “Look at all those silly people who believe in the Year of the Linus Desktop. They’re not clever and sophisticated like me.”

    Ms Hall is right about Ubuntu’s effect on the “market.” Where Linux needs to cater to a “market,” it needs an entity like Canonical, people like Shuttleworth. I might not care what Linux’ “market share” is, but some people do. I might be happy to continue using a nice community distribution, but others want Linux sitting beside Windows and Apple in the store. Ubuntu has done more for that cause than any other distribution.


  29. A_Geeko_Lurker A_Geeko_Lurker August 3, 2013

    Excellent post. Ubuntu and many of its derivatives are very easy to use by the average person. They pass the “Granny Test” of a non-technical person being able to use the distro with minimal fuss and often much less aggravation to the family IT guru.

    The big problem for the Linux desktop is not the quality of many distros but that rarely any are routinely installed on the computer at purchase. One person, I forget who, commented that most people can not install Windows so expecting them to install any distro is a fool’s errand; they will not.

  30. eco2geek eco2geek August 4, 2013

    I’ve always rather cynically thought that the largest group of people who care if it’s the “Year of the Linux Desktop” are tech journalists who can’t think of anything else to write about. Although there are people who think that marketing Linux the way that Windows or OS X is marketed is the way to increase Linux’s user base, I’m more of an “if you build it, they will come” type. Linux has come a long way despite the lack of slick marketing campaigns. And I think most people who use Windows do so not because they want to, but because they have no choice — it came “free” with their computer.

    But I do agree with the author about Ubuntu. I don’t like Unity because I like the tried-and-true “hierarchical menu” user interface, and find Unity clunky, so I use Kubuntu instead. But there’s no question that Unity (and “GNOME classic”) look good. Shuttleworth & Co. always have put a lot of time and effort into making their UI look nice. They also put time and effort into making the underlying OS work well. Kubuntu, Xubuntu, et. al. use the same “plumbing” as Ubuntu, and benefit from it in terms of ease-of-use.

    I hope and trust that Canonical will be able to continue their campaign to develop Mir and put Unity on smartphones and tablets while continuing to sponsor their other distributions, as they have before.

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