Ubuntu, the Canonical-sponsored operating system is gaining new grounds – in both enterprise and consumer segments. The Company now has new challenges -- the challenges which develop as a company grows. We talked to Prakash Advani, Partner Manager - Central Asia at Canonical, to understand how Canonical is preparing Ubuntu for the future.
What are the challenges? Is Canonical planning to enter the hardware business and offer an Apple-like solution, fully optimized hardware for the OS? Has Ubuntu missed the tablet bus as Android, despite being not prepared for this form-factor has seen great adoption? What is Canonical's stand on Apple using Canonical's brand Launchpad? Will we see professional film-editing software on Ubuntu? Will you be playing the Call of Duty on Ubuntu any soon? There are many such questions buzzing every Ubuntu user. If you want to find out the answers, read on...
Swapnil: When we look at Ubuntu, are we looking at a business or a consumer OS?
Prakash Advani: Ubuntu is strong in the consumer space, governments and education. We now see businesses also adopting Ubuntu. With our LTS (Long Term Release), more and more enterprises are now deploying Ubuntu because of the long-term support.
Swapnil: CentOS, a derivative of Red Hat has become quite popular among businesses. Has Ubuntu been able to create its place among enterprises?
Prakash Advani: Ubuntu is already number 1 Linux Desktop OS, number 1 in Cloud, and number 2 in servers ahead of CentOS.
Swapnil: What USP does Ubuntu have over RHEL or CentOS. Why would a firm choose Ubuntu over the other two OSes? What benefits does one get with Ubuntu?
Prakash Advani: In the case of Ubuntu, customers get free updates and patches. Customers can also purchase additional support as desired. In case of Red Hat, updates are not free. In the case of CentOS there is no official support.
Swapnil: Do you have any figures/data about how many Ubuntu PCs are running around the globe?
Prakash Advani: Its is difficult to estimate the number of users because we don't enforce any tracking mechanism. We estimate Ubuntu to have at least 12 million users globally.
Swapnil: What kind of adoption exists in the regions you are looking after?
Prakash Advani: We have seen very good adoption of Ubuntu in India and Malaysia.
Swapnil: Could you share with us the revenues of Canonical? Does Canonical has any plans to go public?
Prakash Advani: Canonical is a privately held company and the revenues are not shared. We have no plans to go public.
Swapnil: “Cloud” is the new buzz word in the tech segment. What is Canonical's strategy for Cloud? How much cloud market has Canonical been able to tap?
Prakash Advani: We have Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC) which is built on open source and has all the components required to setup your own cloud. Ubuntu is also very popular in the public cloud.
Swapnil: How much contribution originates in Asia as compared to the rest of the world?
Prakash Advani: Some countries in Asia are more actively using Open Source, while some are slow at adoption. It also depends on Government policies. Some countries already have policies towards open source in place, while others are in the process. We are happy to help countries form their vendor-neutral open source policy.
Swapnil: Canonical recently announced the use of Unity and not Gnome shell 3. There is mixed reaction within the community. Mark has written in detail about it. How do you see this shift affecting the community in general?
Prakash Advani: To take Linux Desktop to the next level, we had to do some big steps. For example, Gnome Shell was developed when netbooks didn't exist. Unity was designed to address these new markets. Unity has been designed to scale from small screen to large screens.
All the code of Unity is completely open source, most of the community is very excited about Unity. While some feel we are abandoning Gnome, we are not.
We will continue to use Gnome and only replace Gnome Shell with Unity. Of course, if someone want to go back to Gnome Shell, they can easily do that.
Swapnil: Apple recently launched a feature named Launchpad. What is Canonical's stand on this issue?
Prakash Advani: We are glad Apple likes our brand name! The purpose of Canonical's Launchpad.net and Apple's Launch pad are different, hence non-competing.
Swapnil: Ubuntu has come a long way ever since I started using it in 2005. Now, how do you plan to penetrate the Windows/Mac dominated market?
Prakash Advani: We designed Ubuntu to provide a good Linux Desktop experience and we are happy with the progress. We don't plan to penetrate Windows/Mac markets, all operating systems have their own markets.
Swapnil: Do you think Ubuntu is ready for prime time? What is your plan to market Ubuntu in the consumer segment? Who are your typical target users?
Prakash Advani: Ubuntu fits in well as a general purpose operating system. It works well for people with basic needs of browsing, emailing, word-processing and spreadsheets.
In some segments Ubuntu doesn't fit in, due to application availability.
Our target users are consumers, education, governments and enterprises which are looking at reducing licensing costs.
Swapnil: What are the challenges you see for Ubuntu in this segment?
Prakash Advani: Availability of applications pose a challenge to adoption.
Swapnil: We often get question by readers if Canonical has plans to bring the latest high-end Games/specialized software like film editing on the Ubuntu platform? This would bring an end to dual-boot machines, where, despite using Ubuntu, users have to spend money on buying Windows licenses for such specialized software. What is your take on the situation? Does that kind of market exist?
Prakash Advani: Chasing markets that are already extremely well-served is not a priority for us. Professional film-editing is done on Macs and attempting to target that market with the same software is not likely to be successful. We do provide personal film-editing software and will look to deliver more software that suits the general user and allows them to do things that are fun and useful.
Gaming is another area where we bring and would like to expand the range and number of games available. But again, expecting game publishers to port to their high-end titles to Ubuntu when fewer are being made available off-console is not something we will do.
Swapnil: In addition to the above question, if we load Ubuntu with proprietary software will not the entire purpose behind the Free Software movement fail? How do you plan to maintain the tight-rope balance?
Prakash Advani: Our goal is to make an open source operating system freely available to everyone that showcases the best of FLOSS software. It is not our goal to dictate how people use it.
Where there is an option we will always present people with the free and open option, as we do not believe that economics or licensing should be a barrier to technology as much as we can prevent it. However, we want Ubuntu to be used as people want to use it, and we want to provide (and always have done) a rich and diverse software ecosystem around it, and we want people to be also to make their choices freely and in an informed way.
Swapnil: What is the status of hardware support in Ubuntu? How is your engagement with the OEMs to improve hardware support even further? When can we see the drivers for Ubuntu either available with the driver CDs or on the vendor's websites?
Prakash Advani: Today Ubuntu has some of the best hardware support out of the box. Hardware support is not a big issue anymore. Yes sometimes we have stray incidents where some hardware doesn't work properly. Ubuntu has the largest community of users which help other solve hardware issues. Most of the hardware queries are promptly replied in the Ubuntu forum by our vibrant community.
We also engage with the OEMs to certify there hardware, this assures the customers that all the hardware that is certified with Ubuntu will work properly. We are happy to work with hardware manufactures who want better support on Linux.
Swapnil: Earlier Dell used to offer Ubuntu pre-installed. It has been withdrawn. We were expecting that Ubuntu would be made available as a pre-installed option (along with Windows) by most OEMs like HP, Dell , Lenovo and many more. What are the obstacles in this path?
Prakash Advani: Dell still continues to ship with Ubuntu. If customers continue to demand Ubuntu, we will see Dell and other OEMs shipping with Ubuntu.
Swapnil: I see this as an anti-competitive business practice. Should not vendors offer choice of Windows or Ubuntu/no-os instead of offering only Windows?
Prakash Advani: Yes of course people should have a choice and until customers accept that they don't have a choice, this trend will continue.
See bug number 1 on Launchpad: Ubuntu was created to give people a choice.
Swapnil: Ubuntu is creating its own niche, an Apple-like approach. How about buying a hardware vendor like System 86 to offer a complete solution to customers?
Prakash Advani: We want to stay focused on making Ubuntu better and don't plan to get into the hardware business. We instead work with hardware manufacturers to help them create world-class products based on Ubuntu.
Swapnil: It seems Ubuntu has missed the tablet bus. Android was not ready for big form-factor devices which were trying to create the iPad alternatives. Windows is not ready either. Don't you think it was a golden opportunity for Ubuntu with uTouch to grab the spot and create a niche for itself? Are there any plans for Tablets?
Prakash Advani: The tablet market has only just started, and we shall see how it develops. uTouch provides an infrastructure for touch to work on all types of devices. However all the applications are not touch aware, they will work with uTouch but are not optimized for touch environments. For example, small icons are easy to click using a mouse but not using your fingers.
It will take some time before we have key open source applications, fully touch enabled.
We currently do not have plans to launch a tablet edition.