Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: Ubuntu's Shuttleworth: "I don't think anyone can make money from the Linux desktop"
Shuttleworth: Ubuntu developer Canonical may need 3-5 more years of funding
Founder of unprofitable Linux vendor says he's willing to continue bankrolling the company
IDG News Service - Canonical Ltd., the commercial backer of the Ubuntu Linux operating system, is not yet turning a profit, but founder Mark Shuttleworth said during a teleconference today that he is prepared to bankroll the company for three to five more years.
"We continue to require investment, and I continue to be careful with my pennies in making those investments, but I consider this a good proposition," the billionaire technologist said. "Canonical is not cash-positive, but our offering is very attractive to those who want to pinch their pennies in the Linux space."
Canonical, which brings in money by providing fee-based services and support for the Ubuntu software, currently has annual revenue in the range of "several million" dollars, Shuttleworth said. But the company's low revenue and lack of profits hasn't shaken his belief in its business model.
"We are entering a time when there's a real commoditization of the desktop, so I don't think it would be possible to make a lot of money, or even any money," by trying to sell Linux itself, Shuttleworth said. "The only way to build businesses around Linux is around services."
Shuttleworth held the teleconference in conjunction with this week's upcoming Ubuntu 8.10 release, which Canonical announced today. Ubuntu 8.10 includes improved 3G wireless support and new features such as a "guest" capability that lets users lend their PCs to other people to check e-mail and perform other tasks without disturbing the existing programs or settings.
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Looking forward, Canonical expects Ubuntu's development to embrace three key trends, Shuttleworth said: touch-based interactivity, 3-D imagery and the integration of Web-like features into the desktop user experience.
In the future, "most devices will have a touch dimension within them," he said, adding that "the lines between the 2-D desktop and 3-D gaming environment are going to blur."
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