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Amazon and Ubuntu: A match made for profit?

Ubuntu 12.10, code-named Quantal Quetzal, is scheduled for release on October 18. Like any new release of a Linux distribution or any operating system, it will come with its share of new features, old but updated features and bugs.

A few of the new features will be in the installer (see the state of manual LVM and full disk encryption configuration in Ubuntu’s Ubiquity), while most will be on the running desktop environment itself. If you have been following the development of this next edition of Ubuntu, especially via the blog of Jono Bacon (see On The Recent Dash Improvements), I am sure you must be familiar with the issue surrounding the search results that the system throws in front of you when you use the Dash to search for content.

What happens is, instead of just giving you results from local content, that is, from content on your computer, the system shows you content from online sources. More specifically, from Amazon.com. But it goes beyond just the search results because in the latest beta that I have been playing with, Ubuntu 12.10 beta 2, there is an icon for Amazon.com right on the Dock. You can see that clearly on the screen shot below. Yes, that “a” is for Amazon.com.
Amazon Ubuntu Dock

And there is one on the Dash too.
Amazon on the Dash

Clicking on the Amazon icon takes you straight to Amazon’s home page. Privacy concerns have been raised about this integration of Amazon.com into the Dash, which has been directly addressed here.
Amazon Ubuntu4

While those are valid concerns, the main gist of this article is this: Why Amazon? And what is the relationship between Amazon and Canonical? (Canonical is the commercial entity behind Ubuntu). Is that relationship just for the benefit of you, the Ubuntu user, or has Canonical become the latest Amazon Associate? So every purchase you make at Amazon.com from the Dash puts some change in Mark Shuttleworth’s pocket?

If that is the case, and I have no evidence to prove that it is, but it is going to be very difficult to convince me or any other reasonable person that Amazon.com is being integrated into the Dash, which will no doubt lead to sales and profits for Amazon, without some financial benefit to Canonical. Just remember that Canonical is a commercial entity with paid employees.

So the question to Jono Bacon (and Mark Shuttleworth, too) is, has Canonical become an Amazon Associate? If the answer is a “yes,” I think people need to know. Personally, I do not care and I do not think there is a problem with that, but we just need to know. Many Ubuntu users probably shop at Amazon.com anyway, so if they do their shopping from the Dash and some of that money goes to support the company that is developing a free Linux distribution for them to use, what is the problem with that? From my angle, there is no problem. But like I said earlier, we need to know what the real relationship between Jeff Bezos’ outfit and Canonical.

If that relationship is quid pro quo, why stop with Amazon? Why not add other online retailers, like IKEA, Walmart and Whole Foods Market? The Dock in future editions of Ubuntu, after Ubuntu 12.10, could look just like the one shown in this image.
Future Dock

And the Dash will add a few more icons.
Future Ubuntu Dash

In Ubuntu 12.10 beta 2, if you search for “apples,” you will get search results all from Amazon.com. If in future editions of Ubuntu, an online retailer, like Whole Foods Market, is integrated in the Dash, those search results will likely also include images of juicy apples. Now, that would be cool. Buy my fruits and veggies from the Dash. For Canonical, the future is green, or has the potential to be.
AmazonUbuntu4

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7 Comments

  1. Robert F. says:

    I think it makes sense. Amazon doesn’t have it’s tentacles in the OS market to push it’s wares like Apple does. Ubuntu could use the source of income to push initiatives into the tablet and smart phone space. The unity store for music could tie into Amazon’s music library. Amazon is great at marketing too and it would be nice if Shuttleworth and Bezos could jointly push Ubuntu. It is really turning into a great OS.

  2. istok says:

    wow that’s a great mockup. a glimpse into the future.
    yeah it would be good if this brought profit to canonical. sadly they tend to fail with pretty much all their initiatives.
    so my guess is it will irk the community without bringing the profit.

  3. simon says:

    Mark has already admitted it is to gain funding from Amazon to put back into Ubuntu development…. o_0

  4. David says:

    This isn’t a zero-sum game — a feature like this can be convenient for users and help fund Ubuntu’s development at the same time.

    The best case I’ve seen against this implementation is that every search you do in the Dash, including names of files you’d prefer to keep to yourself, will go out over the internet to Canonical and from there to Amazon.

    But since Ubuntu 12.10 will supposedly include a switch in the settings to turn off non-local searches in the Dash, (or you can simply remove the Amazon lens), none of this seems like a big deal — use it if you like it, or turn it off if you don’t.

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