That should be obvious to anybody who’s been following the development of Ubuntu, but for those who have not, here’s the deal: Ubuntu is not a community distribution.
The sooner you get that, the better, especially if you’ve been under the illusion that Mark Shuttleworth cares very much about your own idea of what a community distribution should be.
Yes, Ubuntu is open source, but so is Android? If you are a developer, how many times have you been consulted by Google before any feature is implemented in Android? Well, why, then, are you surprised and pissed off that Canonical is not doing the same.
So much fuss is being made about Canonical’s decision to use a new display server called Mir, but whether you agree with the reasoning behind Mir or not, if you view it from the perspective of a commercial entity, you’ll be less bothered by the fact that the community was not consulted, or what the impact on existing community projects will be.
What most people fail to realize is this: Ubuntu is a suite of operating systems (Desktop, Server, Cloud, and Touch) sponsored by a company called Canonical Ltd. And Canonical is a commercial entity with employees, paid employees. As such, any decision taken by its management is taken with the commercial interest of the company front and center.
And that’s where it begins and ends. Commercial interest(s). Even though Canonical has been in business since early 2004, the company is not profitable. Keep that in mind, because that’s the driving force behind almost every decision and project coming from the mind of Mark Shuttleworth and crew. The need to be profitable.
If the effect of a Canonical decision impacts your pet project positively, it’s only by accident, definitely not intended. At the same time, don’t be disappointed if your project is adversely impacted by what Mark Shuttleworth decides to do.
With that in mind, be prepared for more commercial interest-driven decisions from Canonical. Because there will be more coming down the pike. If you’ve studied Mark Shuttleworth from afar as much as I’ve done, you’ll see a man who considers himself an open source version of Steve Jobs. That’s neither good nor bad, but that’s the profile of the man that I’ve able to piece together.
Couple that image with the need to run a profitable outfit, it is easy to see the company making decisions and forging future partnerships that will rub everybody with an idealized definition of “community” the wrong way. As a firm believer in the Free Software philosophy, I don’t care a whole lot about Canonical. That said, from the perspective of a profit-driven entity, the company is making the right moves. The problem, of course, is no heavy-hitter in the industry has shown any real interest in what Mark Shuttleworth is hawking.
The string of projects that have failed to gain traction in the marketplace (Ubuntu TV, Ubuntu for Android, and Ubuntu for Phones) will ultimately drive Mark to forge partnerships not unlike what Novell pulled off with Microsoft. And do not be surprised to find Steve Ballmer across a negotiating table from Mark Shuttleworth.
One more thing. If you fashion yourself after the likes of a Steve Jobs, and you run a for-profit company, a hidden objective would be to take your company public – eventually. That will also be a factor in the types of decisions and deals that Mark Shuttleworth makes.
For emphasis, Ubuntu is not a community distribution. The sooner you get that, the less likely you will be disappointed by any decision that Mr. Shuttleworth makes.
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