Sure Red Hat just crested the $1 billion-revenue mark with almost $150 million in profit while Canonical, maker of Ubuntu Linux, still isn’t profitable after seven years in business.Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth says … so what?
He’s got big plans for Canonical and he’s trying to solve a bigger problem: can an open source company make money if it always gives its software away for free and only charges for other stuff?
“We’re much smaller than Red Hat and our model is very different. We publish free of charge the software that Red Hat would charge for. So their model is more like a traditional proprietary software model,” he told Business Insider.
Calling Red Hat “proprietary” is like a “yo mamma” insult in the open source world. For the record, Red Hat Linux software is available for free. The company charges subscriptions for all support including security updates. Ubuntu doesn’t charge for updates but sells subscriptions for technical support.
But Shuttleworth is not exactly trying to build another Red Hat. He wants to build another Apple.
A year ago Canonical created a new Apple-like user interface for the desktop version of Ubuntu called Unity and he’s been on an Apple-like roll ever since.
“Our relationships with manufacturers are paid relationships. We sell millions of PCs with HP, Lenovo, Dell, Asus, Acer. We expect to to ship close to 20 million PCs in the next year,” he told us.
But wait, there’s more!
- Canonical launched an iTunes knock-off music service called UbuntuOne.
- UbuntuOne also includes file syncing, photo and document storage, like iCloud.
- He says he’s talking to TV manufacturers to produce Ubuntu TV and expects to have the first unit available in about a year.
- In February, Canonical released Ubuntu for Android (although it requires a dual-core phone to work).
- He’s working on content deals for movies and other content
- A tablet is on the roadmap after Ubuntu TV. Unity is already set up for touch devices.
“The vision is to have this seamless experience from phone, tablet, TV, laptop. Wherever you purchase content you can consumer it anywhere else,” Shuttleworth describes.
But Canonical hasn’t completely given up on the enterprise, either. Red Hat is the favourite but Shuttleworth caused a stir last month when he showed how Ubuntu is more popular on Web servers than Red Hat. Enterprises can already build private clouds with Ubuntu and use these with Amazon and other cloud providers, too.
Shuttleworth will be the keynote speaker at LinuxCon Europe this fall where he’ll try to convince the Linux faithful why his work with Canonical should be praised as much as Red Hat’s. That will be a hard sell. While they like the Ubuntu software, Shuttleworth has also ticked them off. The company doesn’t contribute as much back to the basic Linux software as others do.
Shuttleworth defends this by saying it is contributing in other ways. It is making Ubuntu easier for consumers and it has jumped in to help the Linux Foundation work with Android. He sees his role as making Linux more popular. Preferably as popular as Apple.