Shuttleworth steps down as Ubuntu CEO

In a morning press call on Dec. 17, 2009, Mark Shuttleworth announced that he was stepping down as head of Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu. In his place, Jane Silber, the current Chief Operating Officer who has been with Canonical since 2004, will take over as CEO.

Shuttleworth added that he will not in any way, shape, or form be leaving Ubuntu. In an interview, Shuttleworth said that he's will stay head of the Ubuntu Community Council and the Ubuntu Technical Board. Instead of managing the business, he will be "working closely on product design and our enterprise customers. I will also be working more closely with partners, especially in Asia. I will also work more closely with larger enterprise customers in our new cloud offerings. I will be spending more time on the areas that interest me the most and where I feel I can do the most good."

Specifically, "I will focus on my passions of product design and development. I want Ubuntu to succeed as the open platform of choice for almost all use types whether on netbook, notebook, desktop, server, embedded device or wherever people compute. That is a large undertaking and being able to focus on that, thanks to Jane, is a great privilege. I will also spend more time talking to and visiting partners and customers about what they demand from an open platform and feeding that back into the product through the community and Canonical."

Neither Ubuntu nor Canonical will be changing its direction. Looking ahead Shuttleworth will still set the overall goals, but Silver will be in charge of implementing the strategy to reach these goals and day-to-day business management.

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Shuttleworth steps down as Canonical CEO

In a blog posting, which isn't published yet, Shuttleworth added that "No, it doesn't mark a change of direction. Jane and I have worked closely together over the last 5 years, and while in her new role as CEO she will have the authority to make decisions which may differ from those I would make, we are broadly aligned on our strategy and direction. This change does mark our commitment to continually optimize our operations and offerings, and as Canonical matures as an organization I believe that Jane brings the skills and experience that we need in the CEO role."

Silber added that "This move will bring about is a clearer separation of the role of CEO of Canonical and the leader of the Ubuntu community. It will be two different people now, which I think will be helpful in both achieving their joint and individual goals more quickly."

Shuttleworth indicated that this move is not, in preparation to taking Canonical public anytime soon. It's really more about putting the best people in the best place for the benefit of both the company and the Linux distribution.

As for the business itself, Shuttleworth said that Canonical has three lines of revenue: OEM sales of Linux-powered netbooks and PCs, and end-user and business support. Shuttleworth said that this Linux desktop business was "growing nicely." In addition, both the enterprise server offerings and service support are also growing. Shuttleworth added that while Canonical is still not profitable but that it's on the right trajectory. He added that he was quite comfortable with the business, which now has more than 300 employees. Mark and Jane did indicate that the company will continue to work on growing its enterprise business.

Shuttleworth also added that while its work with Google on the Chrome OS isn't Canonical's main direction, they're looking forward to doing more work on Chrome OS. He added that Ubuntu is looking forward to gaining more of the desktop market with its own Ubuntu offering "right under Windows 7's nose."

This changeover will have finished by Mar. 1, 2010. Silber added that "We intend the transition to be a smooth one so in the immediate term it will be business as usual. Over the medium and long term we think this will better align the skills that each of us has and therefore there should be positive benefits for all who are involved in the Ubuntu and Canonical universes."

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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