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Canonical: The Next Apple

Given all the legends surrounding Apple’s widely mourned Steve Jobs, it’s not entirely surprising that comparisons should be made any time another tech leader begins to resemble him in any way.

Case in point: Mark Shuttleworth. The billionaire Canonical founder has actually been compared to Jobs on numerous occasions before, but lately the discussion was renewed afresh by a recent post on Linux Advocates.

“Is Canonical heading in Apple’s direction?” is the title of said post, which was penned by none other than Muktware founder Swapnil Bhartiya, and it sparked quite a lively conversation on the young Linux news site.

‘Canonical Didn’t Do Anything’

“Canonical never addressed any major issues facing the Linux world,” Bhartiya charged. “When Adobe decided to stop AIR support for Linux, Canonical did not do anything. Then Adobe decided to stop supporting Flash and again Canonical didn’t do anything and left the users on their own.

“When secure boot became a serious concern, Canonical didn’t do anything; it was a Red Hat developer Matthew Garrett who worked on a solution,” he added. “So what is this largest open source project doing for Linux or other core open source projects?”

Adding further fuel to the fire was a later Muktware post, again by Bhartiya, accusing Canonical of fraud in its collection of donations for the support of flavors such as Kubuntu.

Bottom line? A considerable amount of “Ubuntu hate,” as TechRepublic’s Jack Wallen recently put it, in the community these days.

Down at the Linux blogosphere’s Broken Windows Lounge, everyone had a pet theory.

‘A Different Set of Priorities’

“Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action,” Google+ blogger Kevin O’Brien told Linux Girl over a fresh Tequila Tux.

“I can defend any of the steps Canonical has made individually,” O’Brien explained, “and I think in many respects Ubuntu is a lot more innovative than other distros. A lot of people in the Linux community love innovation as long as it doesn’t change anything.”

However, “I think Canonical is moving in a direction distinctly different from a ‘community-oriented’ distro,” he added. “I think if I were paid to work there I would find it to be a great place to work with a lot of great stuff being developed. But if I were a community member, I would be looking for a new project to get involved in.

“That doesn’t make Canonical evil — just a company with a different set of priorities,” O’Brien concluded.

‘Worried for the Project’s Future’

“I’m really not sure what direction Canonical is heading in, and quite frankly Shuttleworth’s last rant — accusing people unhappy with Ubuntu’s latest direction of being elitists who prefer a hard-to-use Linux, even though that is the exact opposite of what people have been upset about — leave me worried for the whole project’s future,” consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack opined.

“Unity is actually much harder to get work done with,” he added.

“Mark Shuttleworth seems to have not understood the big picture at all,” blogger Robert Pogson told Linux Girl. “The idea that Canonical should try to outdo Apple and M$ in what they do is absurd.

“Apple bundles over-priced hardware with their software based on BSD Unix and M$ forces OEMs and retailers to bundle their latest release of an OS from Hell,” Pogson explained. “Both companies rely on monopoly to rip off millions of consumers.”

‘A Failing Leap of Faith’

FLOSS, on the other hand, “is about the world cooperatively making and sharing software,” he added. “The only obstacle to ultimate success of GNU/Linux is retail shelf-space. Remember the eeePC? It sold out globally when it shipped with GNU/Linux.”

There’s no need for radical change, in other words. “Just keep doing what’s been working, promoting GNU/Linux with OEMs,” Pogson suggested. “On the verge of success this guy is waving the white flag, demanding defeat if he cannot be like Apple and M$… It’s a Greek tragedy, where the winner sees defeat and commits suicide.”

Sometimes great leaders are “just greatly wrong,” he added. “The error here seems to be based on the idea that a single GUI should somehow work on huge monitors or tiny smartphones.

“That’s silly,” Pogson concluded. “No one that I know wants a familiar and personally customized GUI with icons and menus shoehorned into something that fits on a smartphone. Because different solutions both run on some kind of computer does not mean they should have the same OS or GUI. That’s a failing leap of faith that Shuttleworth makes, not logic.”

‘An Effort to Survive’

Mark Shuttleworth “seems to worship Apple,” observed Robin Lim, a lawyer and blogger on Mobile Raptor.

“But Canonical’s actions and Ubuntu’s current direction have nothing to do with emulating Apple,” Lim said. “Canonical really cannot follow the Apple model since it is not into the hardware business, and I think they do know that.”

Rather, “Ubuntu’s current direction is really more of an effort to survive,” Lim told Linux Girl.

“It is not secret that Canonical invested in Ubuntu to turn a profit — nothing wrong with that,” Lim explained. “It is also pretty apparent that the company has no business model on how it will turn a profit, but as strange is it may sound, there is nothing wrong with that these days. Launch a service, get plenty of eyeballs and worry about monetization later.”

The problem, of course, “is getting enough eyeballs,” he noted, even as Canonical’s recent moves “seem to have alienated a rather influential part of the Linux community.”

‘The Blessed 3’

Slashdot blogger hairyfeet took an even darker view.

“What was it I said 2 years ago when I gave them five years to live? That they would flop from one trend to another to try to find a viable business model before finally petering out,” hairyfeet said. “Well there ya go, just as I predicted.

“One of the ugly truths nobody wants to talk about is ‘the blessed three,’ which so far have been the ONLY way to make a living while having software that is FOSS because of the re-distribution clause: 1. Services/support, 2. Selling hardware, and 3. The tin cup.”

What Canonical should have done “is REALLY copy Jobs by using BSD as the basis over Linux,” hairyfeet suggested. Then “they could still give back to the base packages while charging for their completed work and make enough to actually grow and hire more workers and do more R&D.”

So Close and Yet So Far

Linux Rants blogger Mike Stone wasn’t so sure.

“From a logistical perspective, Canonical is definitely heading in Apple’s direction,” Stone began.

“That being said, it’s hard not to, considering where they started,” Stone added. “Ubuntu is Linux, and Linux is open. By sheer necessity, Canonical started out open. Now, they’re moving towards a less open position.

“This is definitely more in Apple’s direction than where they started, but we still have to consider the vast chasm that still separates Canonical and Apple,” he pointed out. “It’s like two points on the opposite sides of a globe. No matter which direction they go, they’re going to be closer together. That doesn’t mean that they’re actually close together.”

‘Still No. 1’

Indeed, “from the beginning, Canonical was meant to be a GNU/Linux distribution for the masses,” offered Google+ blogger Gonzalo Velasco C. “They become popular and we can count a large number of people around us that entered the Linux world through the Ubuntu path. So, thank you very much Canonical!”

Of course, “times change, and now they are dreaming high,” he pointed out. “So what? As long as the Ubuntu manifesto ‘Ubuntu is and will always be free…’ is valid, they can paint it black and I won’t care.

“Ubuntu is still the number one distro, no mater what Distrowatch ‘clickers’ do,” he concluded. “Ubuntu stands on the shoulder of giants and has become a giant on its own.”

Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.

8 Comments

  • I don’t Like Canonical. They do a good job in 12.10 but.

    I need to write command to install things. WTF is I can do everything on Windows is by just running a setup.

    When I tried 12.10 I got very slow internet. I never gave it try when this cause 3-4 time.

  • >""What Canonical should have done "is REALLY copy Jobs by using BSD as the basis over Linux," hairyfeet suggested. Then "they could still give back to the base packages while charging for their completed work and make enough to actually grow and hire more workers and do more R&D.""

    This hairyfeet is getting sillier each time… stop forgetting to take your meds my friend.

    >""That’s silly," Pogson concluded. "No one that I know wants a familiar and personally customized GUI with icons and menus shoehorned into something that fits on a smartphone. Because different solutions both run on some kind of computer does not mean they should have the same OS or GUI.""

    Does pogson even knows that U-touch and Unity-Desktop are 2 different GUIs ?

    Man these so called bloggers must be developing alzheimer’s….

    • People laughed at Jobs…which company is the largest on the planet again? If I make a product that cost me 1 million dollars in R&D and you are allowed to just take my product and have a Chinese sweatshop knock out a billion without paying me a cent…how long do you think I’ll stay in business?

      There are some UGLY truths that nobody in the Linux community wants to talk about, one of which is the fact that the redistribution clause cripples FOSS. You can solve the so called "printer story" without needing the redistribution clause yet because RMS seems to think dirty programmers don’t deserve to eat (which really isn’t surprising since he himself currently makes NO money writing programs, both GCC and Emacs were actually forked AWAY from RMS) you make sure that the ONLY way to survive is the blessed three which a good 80% of the software out there doesn’t fall under.

      Why is it that after nearly a half a dozen top game engines have been donated to FOSS that not a single game the quality of Bioshock, a 7 year old game, has EVER been created by the community? The blessed three. Why is Canonical bleeding to death? Desktops don’t fit under the blessed three.

      You have had 20 years of the redistribution clause…where has it gotten you? You have numbers lower than the margin for error on the desktop, stolen copies of your competition are orders of magnitude more popular than your free product, and Canonical will join Xandros,Linspire, and Mandriva on the scrapheap of history. And please don’t bring up Android as 1.-It fits the blessed 3 as Google sells your eyeballs to advertisers, thus are a services company, and 2.- both Android and ChromeOS are GPL V2 ONLY which means they can close the OS at ANY time, just as TiVo did.

      So you can poo poo all you want, the simple fact is MSFT could put out "Windows Goatse with smell-o-vision" and get several orders of magnitude more users than Linux…what does that say about your product, that people would rather pay for a hated product than take yours for free? It tells me that you simply aren’t putting out a quality product and when Canonical folds in 3 it will be the final nail, nobody will sink money into Linux desktops for a loooong time after that debacle.

      • Okey, okey. Now try to get some sleep. This is affecting your health. You need to calm down, inspire, expire, inspire, expire. Now. Much better, huh? Good boy.

        • LOL

          I absolutely agree with you. This hairyfeet guy is hilarious. He’s an Apple fanboy though, what would you expect?

          Ms. Noyes: may I ask why do you keep asking people with little to no contact with Linux, Open Source or even plain reality? This used to be a funny blog. It’s becoming very boring with your selection of "analysts" repeating the same tired "arguments" day after day. Actually, those arguments are sometimes so inaccurate it’s embarrassing. There are actually critiques to be made on Canonical/Ubuntu, but your "haters" are so totally out of touch that they miss them, then invent new absurd theories ("Canonical didn’t do anything?" Really??? Or that tiring, simplistic and, well, idiotic "blessed three theory"). Search some fresh meat, I suggest. This one is rotting.

          • Uhm, just one little more question: Canonical will be dead in three years. Not two, not four: three, right? So it’ll crash in 2016. Do you have an approximate date? Quarter will suffice, month would be stellar, exact date might make you famous. No 16.04 LTS? or maybe no 16.10 release? Will there exist interim releases by then? Maybe you’ll be so kind to ask your ball if rolling releases are finally coming soon or they will never make it? Okey, that were a few more than a single question, but since you are Noyes’ favorite Fortune Teller, you might as well share a few more predictions.

            I’m just curiouoaahahahahahahahahahaha, haaaahahahahahahaaaaahahahahaaaahahaaa, sorry, couldn’t resist.

          • @hairyfeet

            sad how over the years you’ve become so biased on your hate that you’re becoming more and more blind each day.

            Please go check your self for mental cataracts.

            I don’t think you even understand the reasons of open source.

            If I release something on an open source licence, AM gonna go cry that someone forked it ?

            Linux has never been so strong and so healthy.

            If Canonical or Mark S. went away tomorrow it will be almost like if nothing happened.

            Open source is "designed" to stay alive in extreme circumstances that no other product or company can withstand. You can bet it will survive all world economic crisis, alien invasions and nuclear disasters. Linux is like the cacaroach, it will outlive anyone of us.

            And Heck you could be getting dumber if you think no one will invest again in open source or even the linux desktop.

            Just recently Canonical stopped the funding / $ support of Kubuntu and give it back to the community , but just a week after another company decided to sponsor it. Not even going to mention other projects like Tizen.

            And you know what, Linus Tovalds supports Google more than anyone. Linux is everywhere these days already even on the Google Glass.

            I think I’ll start making predictions and say that Apple will not be in the TOP SPOT it is now in 5 years or less! Is lagging behind on innovations (and even on "coolness" which Wozniak himself has mentioned) more and more against google, samsung, etc..

            And Sadly once is behind again, there won’t be a Steve Jobs anymore to come to the rescue.

          • You know what I find truly sad? FOSSies like yourself. Some call ’em Freetards but I think FOSSie is a better description because like Moonies they can only throw insults when you point out obvious flaws in their religion. What was the POINT of the GPL according to RMS? It came about because of the printer story, yes? Well what isn’t solved in the printer story without redistribution? Do you have the code? yes. Can you modify? Yes. Can you share those mods? People mod games without giving the game away, so that much is obvious.

            ITS BEEN TWENTY YEARS, you know what the definition of insanity is? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. How many commercial desktops have been piled upon the trashheap of history again? Because desktops don’t fit under the blessed three. In fact just TRY to find a company making a living with FOSS that doesn’t fit under the blessed three because you can’t, they don’t exist.

            And I love how all a FOSSie can do is hurl insults, ZERO data to back anything up…why is that? Oh right, because the data isn’t on your side. Its been 20 years, you are below the margin of error and in fact if you were to take Linux, BeOS, OS/2, ReactOS, and every other niche OS and put them together? Wouldn’t even equal pirated copies of Windows running out there. How sad, people would rather steal the other guy’s product than take yours for free, doesn’t that make a lightbulb pop up over your head?

            Oh and I love how I get labeled an Apple fanboy when I have never owned so much as an iPod because I dared to point out one thing Jobs knew, you can’t stay afloat if anybody can just copy your work while paying nothing for the R&D. You think Canonical is a charity? They are some church passing the plate for the Great GNU? Mark my words, Canonical dead in 3, Android locked in less than 4, I’d give a tighter prediction but finding out what is going on with H.265 is hard but once the H.265 DRM is finished baking I’m sure netflix will switch and that will be that.

            So please, go back to thinking you are relevant, meanwhile NO B&M retailers will touch your product, NO gains even though MSFT has put out their most hated OS yet, Apple won’t be going anywhere because unlike Linux their products? WORK. And this is from someone hanging onto his Win 7 like a drowning man hanging onto a board. But even I can see if MSFT doesn’t change direction it’ll be an Apple world, Linux? Dead as dead.

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