I am fortunate to count Mark Shuttleworth as a good friend. He's the sort of person who is always genuine. I never get the sense that he's taking shortcuts with me or with the business that he's forming around Ubuntu (i.e., Canonical).
This authenticity in his personality is hugely important for an opportunity looming for him and for Canonical. Like a few big open-source projects and companies, Ubuntu sits at the nexus of various other open-source communities. Unlike perhaps any other, however, Ubuntu has Canonical, a company with a social purpose as much as a corporate purpose.
Herein lies the opportunity, as Mark implies in a conversation he had with Jim Zemlin of the Linux Foundation:
...(It) seems to be that recognizing that enhancing the productivity of collaboration between different groups is a real way to boost the platform as a whole. And at Ubuntu we feel this very, very keenly because not only do we want to collaborate with other upstream projects like Apache or X or Open Office, but we also very much want to be part of and collaborate with Debian which is a very large project in its own right.
So, to us, becoming really good at that process of interacting with other projects, sharing ideas, sharing code, sharing bug information, and so on has been sort of a real driving theme.
And I do think that efficiency of collaboration is one of the key things that we have to improve on in the free software world if we want to compete with the traditional monolithic provider like Apple and Microsoft.
I agree. It's why I think Launchpad is Canonical's secret sauce, not Ubuntu. Apple and Microsoft will continue to have their places at the table, but it's Google and Canonical that I think point to the future. That future involves a teeming morass of communities, all bickering for their place. The company that can tame them and deliver a meaningful, coherent voice out of that mix will win big.
Canonical will be one of them. But it need not be the only one.