October 6, 2006 4:00 AM PDT
Canonical seeks profit from free Ubuntu
(continued from previous page)
It's likely Canonical won't go head-to-head with Red Hat, said Technology Business Research analyst Stuart Williams. Red Hat is a trusted name with big-business customers, who prefer lots of configuration options as opposed to Ubuntu's slimmed-down simplicity. Canonical could be a better fit for around the edges of Red Hat's turf, he said.
"In the high-end server market, Red Hat is untouchable by Canonical," Williams said, noting that the South African company isn't taking the same approach as the Linux leader. "I don't think Canonical is really looking at the enterprise the way Red Hat is. They're looking at department servers, secondary PCs in home or education, and the small business market."
Red Hat suggested that its own approach is suited to demanding customers for whom Canonical holds little appeal. "There are many market segments that are attracted to Linux and open source. Some require minimal support and others require global, comprehensive services for mission-critical environments," Red Hat spokeswoman Leigh Day said.
"By having one common distribution between both the free and paid version, you're either going to compromise quality or compromise innovation," said Justin Steinman, the director of marketing for Linux and open platform solutions at Novell.
While Ubuntu strives to release new versions every April and October, not all are graced with long-term support. Edgy Eft, as a cutting-edge version, will only have 18-month support, for example.
Shuttleworth urged programmers to push the limits by adding new features to that version. "I would encourage members of the community who have been thinking of a cool new feature or plan to seize the opportunity to get it into Edgy. The tradeoff, of course, will be that some of these new ideas will not land perfectly first time. So there may be shakiness, or outright bumpiness, in Edgy," Shuttleworth said on his blog introducing the version. "Risk is good, when you give it a place and a time."
Bumps in the road
Canonical has had hitches with the stable Dapper Drake version, though. The Ubuntu project was stung by criticism after one update disabled the graphical interface for many users in August.
Shuttleworth himself apologized for the glitch and pledged better testing. "We can't afford to take risks with our users' trust, but I balance that with the need to continue to improve the desktop," Shuttleworth said on his blog.
The founder also tried to smooth over rough patches caused by friction between programmers from Ubuntu and those from the Debian Linux version on which Ubuntu is based.
Getting open-source programmers to march in the same direction can be tough. But when it can be accomplished, the product can have an undeniable marketing advantage: Free software can spread quickly to precisely the customers most interested in it. Canonical is just the latest hoping to convert those who try the software into paying customers.
Now it's up to Canonical to make the money, Zachary said. "As we've seen with open-source projects before, with market share comes business opportunity."
62 commentsJoin the conversation! Add your comment