Why I don’t like Canonical

Very important to preface this with: it’s my own personal opinion, written on my own personal blog. This obviously relates to Mandriva and is informed by my own experience working there, but it is not the official opinion of Mandriva, and please don’t read it as such. If you want Mandriva’s opinion, ask our PR folks for an official statement, and it will not look like this. 🙂

So, I’ve just been (implicitly) quoted bashing the Mark Shuttleworth / Canonical business model. (The rating on my ZDnet post is a stunning -21 as I write – my most negatively rated comment anywhere ever – but, strangely enough, no-one’s replied to refute my argument). I thought it was worth expanding my point from my own tiny pulpit.

I’ve written before about what I think about Ubuntu. It’s a good distribution. It does a lot of stuff right. Around 2004 it was better than MDK / MDV in many ways. I don’t think it was ever better in every way, and I think MDV is a better product now, but that’s by the by. This is about Canonical, and Mr. Shuttleworth.

First, the facts: Canonical is a privately-held company. It has no external shareholders and is not listed on any stock exchange. This means it has no legal obligation to provide any information to the public about its assets, liabilities, revenues, costs, or anything at all along those lines. The only information we have is what is volunteered by Canonical staff in interviews and so forth.

From this information we don’t know a lot of detail, but we know the big picture. Canonical does not make money, and has never made money. According to the press call with Mr. Shuttleworth cited above, it is not expected to make money for some time. I don’t know if it’s accurate, but I’ve read a figure suggesting it has cost Mr. Shuttleworth personally $10m over the last four years, suggesting annual losses of approximately $2.5m. Canonical has a substantial amount of paid staff both in development and ancillary areas (I can’t find a reliable figure on this, but I think it’s more than Mandriva), and clearly has a substantial marketing / evangelism budget, given the ShipIt program and its presence at (and sponsorship of) major conferences all over the world.

Now, the facts about Mandriva: it is a publicly traded company (on the Euronext exchange) and posts quarterly financial results, which you can look at for the details if you like. From 1998 (its foundation) to 1999, it made a modest profit almost entirely from sales of boxed products to home users. From 1999 to 2004 (especially following public flotation in 2001), the new management attempted to expand the business rapidly into all sorts of different areas, with the result that costs mushroomed and the company started running substantial losses. Since then, the external management went, and the company has been re-trenching around three core areas: selling Linux products to home users, selling Linux products to ‘corporate’ users, and OEM deals – like the one in which Mandriva will be pre-loaded on the Emtec Gdium netbook system, or the major pre-load deal we have with Positivo in Brazil. Mandriva is currently not profitable, but its losses have been reducing steadily for a while, and we are projected to hit break-even reasonably soon, if all continues according to plan. But, importantly, selling products to individual end-users is a part of the business that is shrinking in importance year on year. It’s now around 20% of total revenue. This isn’t by natural choice, but out of necessity; Ubuntu has more or less killed the market for Linux distributions normal end-users will pay money for.

OK, so much for the facts. Here’s my spin. 🙂

What Mr. Shuttleworth did with Canonical and Ubuntu was divebomb the distribution pool. I can’t claim to know anything about his personal motivations: I’ve never met him and we’ve never interacted. He’s on public record as saying his motivation is to promote the usage of Linux in particular and free software in general, and that’s a laudable goal and one I can’t with good conscience say is not his true aim. However, if I accept that that’s his aim, I still question his methods.

Ubuntu is fundamentally in a position of deeply unfair competition within the Linux distribution market. I know Mr. Shuttleworth frequently says its true competition is Microsoft, but that’s exactly it – he tends to act as if other distributions were irrelevant at best and a hindrance at worst. Ubuntu is a commercial distribution, with a large staff of paid developers – like Mandriva, Red Hat (and, to an extent, Fedora), or SUSE. However, it is not remotely self-supporting and does not plan to be self-supporting in any reasonable timeframe.

This is patently unfair. If Mr. Shuttleworth were a man of typical means and had taken the Canonical ‘business plan’ to a bank or to potential funding sources (venture capital groups and so on) for funding, he’d have been laughed out of court. Well, any time after the dot.com boom, anyway. Let’s imagine the meeting.

Venture Capitalist #1: So, Mr Shuttleworth, you want us to provide several million dollars of annual funding for your brand new commercial Linux distribution. What’s the business plan?

Shuttleworth: Well, we’re going to give the product away for free, and not have any product for which we charge money. We’re going to spend a lot of your money on promotion. We’re also going to ship the product anywhere in the world for free.

VC1: Um…when do we start making money?

Shuttleworth: Well, I figure about ten years down the road.

VC1: Ooookay…how are we going to start making money?

Shuttleworth: I haven’t exactly figured out the details on that yet, but the word “services” is going to figure very prominently!

VC1: Thank you very much, Mr. Shuttleworth. The door is that way.

Think I’m exaggerating? Read the pile of flimflam that is Canonical’s services page. Then compare it to a real company’s. Canonical doesn’t have a business plan, it has a collection of vague aspirations and a distinct tendency to throw money all over the place and hope it sticks somewhere (viz. Ubuntu Server). Remind you of anyone?

So, how does Canonical get away with this? Because it’s all funded by Mr. Shuttleworth’s own money. The only person he has to justify his business plan to is himself, and he gets a pretty easy pass there.

Okay, so, what’s the problem with this?

Imagine you’re a guy selling wooden carvings. You’re not Wal-Mart, but you’ve got an honest business going. Sure, the wood’s basically free, but you put your own time and effort into it and people like your carvings, so they pay you a reasonable fee for them. You get by.

Then a rich guy shows up in town. He calls a press conference.

“I like wooden carvings. Not enough people have wooden carvings. I would like to give the world of wooden carvings a giant boot up the ass. So, I am opening Rich Guy’s Free Wooden Carvings Emporium.”

Rich Guy’s Free Wooden Carvings Emporium is three times as big as your store, excellently lit, and air-conditioned. It has greeters. There’s a workshop with five well-paid and skilled carvers kicking out nicely made carvings – maybe they’re not quite as good as yours, with all your years of experience, but their wood is more consistent and higher quality as they can afford to pay a high-class wood supplier. For customers who can’t make it out to the Emporium, they’ll ship a carving right to their door. And all the carvings are completely free. How does Rich Guy’s Free Wooden Carvings Emporium manage this feat? It doesn’t have a magic way of making money. No, it loses money, hand over fist. But Rich Guy pays for it all.

How do you feel? Pretty fucking pissed off, I’d imagine. How the hell are you supposed to compete with Rich Guy’s Free Wooden Carvings? You can’t. You’re screwed. You find another job, find some kind of wooden carvings niche that RGFWC hasn’t figured out a way to cover yet, or you swallow your pride and go take a job working for Rich Guy. An attractive set of choices there! And what happens when Rich Guy runs out of money, or just loses interest, is never adequately explained.

That’s Canonical’s impact on the Linux distribution market, in a nutshell. Competition’s great, but unfair competition isn’t. It’s just fundamentally very difficult for a truly independent, properly funded company to compete with Mr. Shuttleworth’s Giant Shiny Magic Box Of Coins. The playing field is not level.

The danger is that this unfair competition ultimately drives out all the genuinely independent commercial Linux vendors, except Red Hat. Then you have a choice of Red Hat (which is great, but not what everyone wants; they have either a very stable and well-supported, but old and expensive, corporate product line, or an extremely experimental community desktop product, nothing in the middle); Novell (and lots of people don’t like THAT idea); Ubuntu; or a community distribution. Which, again, is great, but not what everyone wants. And what happens when Mr. Shuttleworth’s money runs out, and Canonical / Ubuntu actually has to start making money somehow? I don’t think that question’s been answered yet.

Ultimately, the way Mr. Shuttleworth decided to make his move to promote Linux was a way that will prove destructive to the ecosystem of Linux vendors. I think, if he’d been willing to be more selfless, he could have had a more positive impact with a plan which worked together with the existing ecosystem instead of just blowing it out of the water and saying “it’s my way or the highway”.

59 Responses

  1. Linux IT Consultant
    Linux IT Consultant October 28, 2008 at 5:12 pm |

    Opinion: Why I don’t like Canonical…

    Very important to preface this with: it’s my own personal opinion, written on my own personal blog. This obviously relates to Mandriva and is informed by my own experience working there, but it is not the official opinion of Mandriva, and please don’…

  2. Is Ubuntu destructive?
    Is Ubuntu destructive? October 29, 2008 at 1:59 am |

    […] Williamson thinks that Ubuntu has been destructive, unfair competition, and that Mark Shuttleworth could have taken a different approach that would […]

  3. LinuxCanuck
    LinuxCanuck October 29, 2008 at 5:47 pm | | Reply

    I am a former Mandrake user and now Ubuntu user. I say this so that you will know that I am familiar with both Mandriva and Ubuntu. I have installed and used Mandriva 2008 and use Ubuntu 8.04 and 8.10.

    Your model presupposes that it is an even playing field and it is not and has never been. The fact that Mark Shuttleworth does not need to go cap in hand to venture capitalists is irrelevant. He has made his money and he has chosen to invest it in Canonical for reasons which are his own and this fact seems to elude you. It is his money and it is his project, like it or leave it. Your opinion is irrelevant. He does not need it. It is his money and he can do as he pleases with it.

    It is as if you were to judge somebody for the type of home they buy or the vehicle they drive or what charities he supports. It is his money. He made it and he can spend it and from what I read he is going into this with his eyes open. His goal is not to supplant Fedora or Mandriva or any distro, but to attract users to open source only because he is in the unique position to be able to do it.

    He does not pretend to be competing with Mandriva or Fedora. He is doing his thing and they are doing there thing. He believes in open source and does not expect to recoup his investment and makes no bones about it.

    You can take it or leave it but to judge it serves no purpose. It is what it is. He is who he is and makes no apologies. Your judgement of him rings of sour grapes, big time.

    If you were in the position he is in would you not want to do what he is doing? That is to say to start a project and to see it become something worthwhile, enabling others to take advantage of the technology which contributed to your wealth.

    I say good for Mark Shuttleworth and bad on you for calling his motives and methods into disrepute. Mandriva will have to win people to its OS by improving user experience which is the same way that Ubuntu must.

  4. mattkingusa
    mattkingusa October 29, 2008 at 6:38 pm | | Reply

    Hahaha, I like the “red neck” like it or leave it! That was funny. Anyway, I agree with you man. These Ubuntu dudes are a bunch of free loaders. No but really, it’s not fair. And I hate how Mandriva always gets stepped on by everyone. They’re just misinformed. Mandriva is way better than Ubuntu.

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  6. eco2geek
    eco2geek October 30, 2008 at 7:20 pm | | Reply

    >> “Ubuntu has more or less killed the market for Linux
    >> distributions normal end-users will pay money for.”

    What market?

    The combination of high-speed Internet connections, inexpensive computers equipped with optical drives, and cheap media killed off the market for selling Linux distributions before Ubuntu came along.

    In other words, you’re not “just” competing against Canonical. You’re competing against every Linux geek with a broadband Internet connection and a CD burner.

    You’re in a worse situation than the American music industry (with everyone swapping MP3s instead of buying CDs) and the American newspaper industry (with everyone getting their news online instead of buying newspapers). At least what they’re trying to sell is proprietary. What you’re trying to sell is mostly GPL’d.

    I’ve never understood Shuttleworth’s motivation. Then again, I’ve never particularly understood Mandriva’s desire to convince me to purchase its product, either, when I can choose between so many other freely-downloadable, high-quality alternatives.

    Shuttleworth, in a recent interview:

    “I don’t think it will possible to make a lot of money, or maybe any money, selling the desktop,” Shuttleworth said. “We’re not going to try to make money selling the desktop. We force ourselves to look to services-oriented business models. I remain confident this is the right business model for the industry. Linux is the forcing function that (means) the broader software industry will shift in business models away from licensing the bits and to services.”

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-1001_3-10075890-92.html

  7. rpkemp
    rpkemp October 31, 2008 at 4:30 am | | Reply

    There is competition and competition. Every argument used above in defence of Canonical could be used in defence of Microsoft.

    It seems entirely appropriate to question Shuttleworth’s motives. If he has no hidden agenda he has nothing to fear from polite probing of the kind Adam has engaged in. It is hard to see, however, why a pure philanthropist should want to reinvent a wheel that has already been invented many times before and push his own invention so aggressively. It would have been much easier to pick an existing distribution and support that. There are plenty to choose from.

    In fact what Ubuntu has done is to further fragment a market that is already too fragmented. If Shuttleworth’s mission was to energise and promote the free software world he would have done better to work towards more unification of the Linux community around a core of interoperability standards, rather than creating a new fork in the road.

    There are any number of things he could have spent his money on that would have progressed the cause of free software much more effectively than he has. Instead he seems to be trying to corner the Linux market for himself. That might be OK if he was manufacturing cardboard liquid containers or something similar, where economies of scale make the biggest supplier the most successful. But the free software world is not like that. It is a cottage industry with clustering tendencies. Industrial scale production will never achieve more than a moderate level of success, especially when so many of the customers are by definition fiercely independent-minded.

    So Shuttleworth’s project, whatever it is, will probably not be successful enough in the end to justify his spendthrift methods. But he can do a lot of damage to the rest of us in trying to pursue it.

  8. petem
    petem October 31, 2008 at 2:36 pm | | Reply

    IM not sure where to start..

    i guess.. if shuttleworth’s motives are to be questioned.. then the motives of the original creators of “mandrake” should be questioned… since ironically mandrake was a fork of redhat..

    could not the energies and resources of those that started mandrake been better put into making redhat better..? or perhaps when mandrake/mandriva was going broke, they should have taken those resources and funneled them to redhat or suse..

    the only thing i see here is that the author has a problem with shuttleworth’s money, and that he did not choose to give any to mandriva… or maybe the author believes that there should only be 1, 2 or maybe 3 linux distros and you “must” choose from those…

    if you begrudge anyone creating their own distro then you would negate any advantage that linux, OSS and FOSS grants..

    i just purchased a subscription to the powerpack.. why.. becuase i feel today it is better than what i was using before which was pclinuxos.. and guess what, that is a fork of mandriva… tomorrow if i find ubuntu better ill switch…

    the question was asked if tomorrow shuttleworth was to stop funding ubuntu, what would happen, how would ubuntu survive…
    your kidding right… Canonical would die… but the distro could survive with the community… Canonical for all intent and purpose sells support…

  9. stolennomenclature
    stolennomenclature October 31, 2008 at 11:16 pm | | Reply

    There is really no such thing as fair competition. How can two or more comapnies trying to out sell each other and put each other out of business be fair? Co-operation is fair, competition is simply commercial war.
    If Canonical does succeed in putting all the other distros out of business, Mark Shuttleworth will have done the world and the open source movement a huge favour. We dont really want hundreds of very similar but annoyingly different distros warring with each other, any more than we want one hundred versions of Windows (or even one for that matter). Way to go Mark.

  10. stolennomenclature
    stolennomenclature November 1, 2008 at 1:21 am | | Reply

    admin – I think there should only be one distro, and to me it does not really matter too much which one it is at the start. If there is only one, then all the real effective open source effort will go into it. The kernel and the GNU software is really Linux – the other part of ther equation are the applications, which in my opinion should not be bundled with the OS in the first place. The reason all the distros are getting better is because the kernel and the desktop software (KDE, Gnome) and the applications written for Linux are getting better. The whole notion of a “distro” is erroneous in the first place. The ideal situation would have the core OS being developed in concert by the open source community, in the same manner as FreeBSD – one OS, no “distro”. The applications would be developed as now by individuals, and would be available to download and install in the same manner as software is for Windows.
    Ubuntu, Fedora, etc once you take away the applications are little more than Linux install routines. We only need one.

  11. Matt Kukowski
    Matt Kukowski November 1, 2008 at 1:32 am | | Reply

    I have to say, bravo Adam, for writing this post about Ubuntu and Canonical.

    I believe all YOUR points, the direct points, to be absolutely true. Forget, any tangent side issues that might spring to mind, in defense of Shuttleworth. Guys, take Adamw’s facts as they are, in pure form. They are true,

    The fact is, is that Open Source was once known as Free Software, only to be morphed by Money and stocks and called Open Source, by Eric S. Raymond, before the 2001 Internet bubble burst.

    F/OSS is a struggle between Free Software and Capitalist’s trying to reap a profit from it, in this ever morphing of the GNU and GPL licenses. For example: GPL Dual Licenses.

    Shuttleworth is a Rich Guy, and anyone can coax programmers to code in ‘this open source style’, for HIS (Ubuntu) vision. As a result, ANY Linux Distro can ALSO reap the benefits of that code and incorporate it, saving other Linux Distributions money, as a result.

    However, there is a MAJOR flaw in Shuttleworth’s business plan for Ubuntu/Canonical. Reason being, he has nothing to lose, he will not run out of money any time soon. But, there in lyes the PROBLEM. He has this money, that other Commercial Linux Distros DO NOT. And THAT is where it becomes unbalanced and unfair. However, not illegal.

    In the end, if Mark Shuttleworth runs out of money, so what!!! The other commercial Distros, WITH an actual revenue generating business plan, can reap the code created from the Ubuntu’s to further their resolve to go, ‘Cash Flow Positive’.

    Either way, F/OSS wins, in the end. It’s all shared open code.

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  13. bigpilot
    bigpilot November 1, 2008 at 3:57 am | | Reply

    If you’re going to criticize Ubuntu you should make clear where you’re coming from: ‘I’m a Mandriva employee / executive and we don’t like Ubuntu because they’re taking away sales from us and we’re in this to get rich’. Then you can start your rant.

    Sure you’re right that Canonical is not competing fairly, but I LIKE Ubuntu BECAUSE the founder is NOT in it for the money. I don’t trust commercial Linux companies because no matter how you slice and dice it, in the end, they’ll always try to become proprietary so they can sqeeze more cash out of you. They’ll add some software package to their distro and then claim that you can’t copy it since that single package they wrote isn’t GPL and you are therefore forced to pay for the whole distribution, like you would with Windows. Commercial companies which are public feel the constant pressure of shareholders who want you to grow your business, and eventually force you to do something stupid, like turning you Linux distro into semi-proprietary software. This won’t happen now, but believe me, we will see more and more of this as Linux becomes more successfull in the desktop market. The commercial public company that gains the most marketshare will eventually try to force all of us to pay for their distibution, and if you don’t they’ll throw some copyright violation law at you. No thanks.

    I love Ubuntu since Shuttleworth is doing this partly out of gratitude towards Linux and open-source, since it made him rich. He couldn’t have started Thawte without Linux and open-source, so he has a good reason to give something back. He doesn’t need the money so he won’t be obliged to start squeezing more money out of us, he’ll be content with breaking even. Even if he does become profitable, he won’t have shareholders breathing down his neck clamoring him to make them more money and growing the business. Eventually the only way he can do this is by asking money for Ubuntu and trying to become a new Microsoft.

    Ubuntu is great, and should stay the way it is, forever. I sincerely hope that all of Linux will eventually rally around Ubuntu, because of Shuttleworth’s motives are the ones that run most parallel with the rest of the open-source community.

  14. davi
    davi November 1, 2008 at 4:25 am | | Reply

    Are community managed services the future?

    GNU Herds Free Software Association

    http://gnuherds.org

    Disscuss it at the development mailing list.
    gnuherds-app-dev@nongnu.org

    True-democratic association mailing list.
    association@gnuherds.org

  15. mjwitter
    mjwitter November 1, 2008 at 6:17 am | | Reply

    admin – Just a small point:

    You question what will happen when Mark’s money runs out.
    He has around $500 million. That means that he could spend $10m a year on Canonical at 2% interest. So I do not see his money running out any time soon.

    His business plan is in fact a good one and he is fortunate enough to have the resources to see it through. By giving away the software, and advertising, Canonical can get as large a user base as possible from which to draw Commercial Support revenue. This entails high initial working capital which, with enough momentum, will lead to good returns in the future.

    This is where his personal wealth comes in, enabling him to hold out for the needed time period where outside financiers would require an immediate return on investment.

  16. mjwitter
    mjwitter November 1, 2008 at 10:29 am | | Reply

    I guess that is why he set up the Ubuntu Foundation(a trust to ensure the continued development of the distro).

    I believe that he is smart enough to ensure that the distro could go on in his absence(his education being heavy in Finance and Accounting).

    The future will tell what will happen. You could be right and Ubuntu is abandoned by the SABDFL. Either way it will be interesting to watch.

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  18. saulgoode
    saulgoode November 1, 2008 at 5:04 pm | | Reply

    “I guess that is why he set up the Ubuntu Foundation(a trust to ensure the continued development of the distro).”

    Unfortunately, the trademarks for Ubuntu and related “community” efforts are not under the control of the Ubuntu Foundation; they are owned by Canonical.

    The continued survival of the Ubuntu distro is not guaranteed. Perhaps the Ubuntu Foundation could continue development of “a” distro; but should Mr Shuttleworth/Canonical choose, it shouldn’t be called Ubuntu. In such a scenario, I’m not sure the Ubuntu Foundation could even retain its name.

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  21. grfgguvf
    grfgguvf November 3, 2008 at 2:16 am | | Reply

    Though luck. What Mandriva should try to do is reach break-even through whatever means, which might include a cooperation or merger with RedHat, or TurboLinux, or I don’t know, and prepare for the future, when Ubuntu WILL collapse sooner or later, and there will be a vacuum, people will be looking for a quality desktop-oriented free OS, if Ubuntu was gone tomorrow Mandriva would be the logical choice for every Ubuntu user, so you should start developing an in-place Ubuntu-to-Mandriva upgrade tool, at least, though it won’t happen tomorrow. Through clever marketing Mandriva can then attract most of Ubuntu’s userbase and instantly become the most widespread OS after Windows, but I still don’t know how to make profit from that! But maybe look at where Microsoft makes money, OEMs and enterprise. And OEMs want to give people usable products, that meet expectations, and today users expect to run pirated Sims and Photoshop on their computer, and as long as Ubuntu or Mandriva can’t do that, OEMs will never want Linux as their mainstream choice. So… it looks like many software patents will no longer be valid even in the US, there is no reason not to install Wine by default, it’s the second most important thing to have after Firefox. Oh, and schools. I was lucky enough to attend a primary school where we were taught Linux and not DOS, and most of us still use Linux, even the girl who became a dancer, or my best friend who is a truck driver, non-tech people and they use Linux, I think Mandriva already got this seeing you tried to expand to schools in Nigeria… Well Microsoft is probably even less fair a competition than Ubuntu. Anyway, good luck.

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  23. nocturn
    nocturn November 3, 2008 at 8:35 am | | Reply

    Shuttleworth is a rich guy actually using his wealth for something constructive.

    I read your article and the point you try to make boils down to revenues and business models which are not a good way to measure how good something is to the world as a whole.

    Ubuntu and canonical have done a lot of good for GNU/Linux and Free Software. Yet you quote SuSE as a good example while they sold the rest of us out to Microsoft…

    I’m a former Mandrake user and I did leave for Ubuntu because the road that Mandrake took at that point in time was one I did not like. If it hadn’t been Ubuntu, you would have lost me to Debian, which is also not sharing your revenue-based model.

  24. nocturn
    nocturn November 3, 2008 at 8:51 am | | Reply

    @admin

    “As long as Ubuntu is built by paid staff and managed by a for-profit company, it should be run on commercial lines: it should be funded by returns generated by the company, not by Mr. Shuttleworth paying the bills forever.”

    Why?
    Just because someone uses the structure of a company to do something good doesn’t negate the positive effect it has.

    I dislike this revenue and responsibility to the shareholders mentality as much as I dislike the stock exchange as a concept.

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  26. LinuxCanuck
    LinuxCanuck November 3, 2008 at 10:59 am | | Reply

    Your article and subsequent comments all smack of sour grapes. You make the mistake repeatedly of confusing Ubuntu and the other *buntus with Canonical. “As long as Ubuntu is built by paid staff and managed by a for-profit company, it should be run on commercial lines: it should be funded by returns generated by the company, not by Mr. Shuttleworth paying the bills forever.”

    Since Canonical is not a publicly traded company it can be run along any line that it likes. Who says that there need to be rules for private companies? Tell that to other private companies and they will tell you to mind your own business.

    Ubuntu does not equal Canonical and vice versa. Ubuntu is a community whether you refuse to admit it or not. It is huge and almost all of the community is unpaid and many developers are unpaid. It is unfair to unpaid developers to belittle or ignore their contributions. It is unfair to characterize the community as a bunch of paid hacks who only contribute because Canonical writes them a cheque.
    Let’s get real here. You object to Canonical stealing your company’s thunder. You don’t consider it fair because it is getting more than its fair of the glory. You don’t really care what happens to Ubuntu or the Ubuntu community and you would rather it go away. Likewise you don’t care about Canonical or Mr. Shuttleworth. What you really care about is your own vested interest. As I said, sour grapes.

    You won’t change the way Mr. Shuttleworth chooses to spend his money or the fact that Novell and RedHat both have deeper pockets than Mandriva. Taking aim at Canonical and Shuttleorth serves no useful purpose. It reflects badly on you and on the company that you support and it divides the community and weakens us all.

    Our goal should be to produce a better Linux and not to attack each other, to impugn the motives of others and to ask questions which serve no useful purpose.

    It is not a competition as far as I can tell. Produce a better product and people will use it. The way to kill Ubuntu isn’t by spending more. Small distros like SimplyMEPIS can produce a perfectly good distro without lots of money and without fanfare.

    I don’t use Mandriva because it is not as good for me. IMO, it has an inferior package management system. It has a smaller repositories and a smaller community and if your blog is typical it does not represent people with whom I would want to associate.

    While it does not meet my needs, I do not hesitate to recommend Mandriva to others and have done so on many occasions. If someone wants a good newbie friendly distro and they don’t install much then Mandriva could be just what they need. I do not write blogs or articles about its deficiencies as they serve no purpose or try to cast stones.

    If Ubuntu is to be criticized, let it be for its shortcomings. You are an outsider asking questions that you don’t really care about the answers. To try to pretend that you care about anything other than your vested interest is pointless.

    Meanwhile paid developers for Canonical are not complaining. Getting more money into the hands of open source developers has to be good for the community at large. I wish more people would invest in open source or throw money in the direction of any open source project they deem worthy. You can do that by clicking on the donate button on any project site. You see we can all be Mark Shuttleworths if we choose.

    Who knows whether Canonical will be here in the long haul? Who knows whether Mandriva will? Linux will be here and each distro will have to find its place and that brings us to your real point. You wouldn’t object to his giving money to Mandriva (nor would any open source project). You don’t like it that he isn’t giving it to your distro.

    Ergo, you don’t like finishing behind Ubuntu. Get used to it. Ubuntu just keeps on getting stronger and that isn’t just because of Canonical or Shuttleworth. It is a testimony to a community of users and developers that have bought into an idea which Shuttleworth began but which grows on its own and would grow without his money. If you think otherwise then you have badly underestimated the user base and the community.

    (BTW, his largess is not limited to Canonical. He contributes to the Linux Foundation and other pet projects of his.)

  27. asennadas » Por que non me gusta Canonical, segundo alguĂ©n de Mandriva

    […] o blog de Adam Williamson atopámonos cunha reflexiĂłn moi interesante sobre as razĂłns que ten para estar en desacordo con […]

  28. El futuro de Canonical « Portal Linux
    El futuro de Canonical « Portal Linux November 3, 2008 at 3:52 pm |

    […] Manager de Mandriva y Bugmaster, hablando en su nombre y no en el de Mandriva como empresa, comentaba algo parecido pero de una manera más critica y profundiza sobre Canonical como […]

  29. The Enid
    The Enid November 4, 2008 at 3:22 am | | Reply

    It sounds to me that you’re in danger of gross hypocrisy, or at least should not throw stones in a glass house. France has the reputation of being one of the most protected, subsidized markets in the EU – it typically raises it’s own national interests above those of its neighbors and the community it helped set up. France has been taken to the European courts for anti competitive subsidies more than any other EU nation.

    Yet, ironically the French government and the French police seem to have chosen one form of distribution (Ubuntu) over it’s own local version. The reason is simple – it’s better.

    Rather than decrying Shuttleworth for his investments you should praise him, we need more people investing a the long term alternative to Microsoft. People seem to forget that the purpose of GPL is to do exactly what the Ubuntu team are doing, build and improve on others work, Ubuntu acknowledges all the work done by other programmers very clearly.

    Better still Ubuntu is free for the user – free as in beer !

  30. Telic
    Telic November 4, 2008 at 6:55 am | | Reply

    Mandriva can take a page from Apple’s book. Mac’s success — despite Microsoft’s drug-lord status — shows that many consumers will even pay a premium for a product that’s perceived to command distinction.

    In a services business model, Mandriva could offer customer support for other commercial Linux brands, in addition to their own. Canonical offers Ubuntu Certification, for example. Mandriva would then have a share in Ubuntu’s success, while still peddling its own wares. If Canonical were to collapse, Mandriva could be an immediate and qualified refuge for Ubuntu clients.

    I’m sure Ubuntu drives Mandriva and others to likewise raise the Linux bar, and that’s a dividend for everyone. Shuttleworth has certainly raised positive public awareness of Linux. By the very nature of the ecosystem, no one Linux distribution can skirt the mountaintop without also pulling others upward.

  31. Telic
    Telic November 4, 2008 at 3:06 pm | | Reply

    admin said “Offering certification on your competitor’s product is not a stunning indication of the faith you have in your own.”

    You misunderstood. I point out that Canonical’s certification program provides a way for Mandriva staff to become qualified to serve Ubuntu’s paying customers — and thus Mandriva can share in the success of Canonical’s distro, while you also promote your own wares within those same business circles. Should Canonical then collapse, Mandriva is a certified and familiar refuge for Canonical’s clients.

    This issue need not be about a pouting, partisan vanity. Rather, this issue can be about running a diversified business, and surviving in a big pond, all while assuring that your own creations have the funds to stay in production, innovate, and challenge the competition.

  32. kickbillcom
    kickbillcom November 5, 2008 at 9:34 am | | Reply

    Adam, elephants can’t dance and Ubuntu is getting bigger and bigger. This is the Mandriva’s opportunity.
    Cut out the fat and focus on what Mandriva is really good, love your product and love your customers.
    This is an opportunity for Mandriva not a problem.

  33. ÂżEs Ubuntu la causa de la muerte de otras distros Linux?

    […] reciente post de un empleado de Mandriva llamado Adam Williamson, que arremetiĂł contra Canonical en un reciente post en su blog, en el que explica que para Ă©l […]

  34. A mĂ­ no me gusta Canonical: Adam Williamson

    […] irrelevantes, en el mejor de los casos y un obstáculo en el peor. Entrada original en inglĂ©s: http://www.happyassassin.net/2008/10/28/why-i-dont-like-canonical/ 1 comentarios en: tecnologĂ­a, software libre alcoholímetro: 34 etiquetas: canonical, […]

  35. colonelcrayon
    colonelcrayon November 5, 2008 at 10:27 pm | | Reply

    Sorry, but this post just comes across as whiny. Mandriva hasn’t been able to compete with Ubuntu (I’m not sure why, since all those Canonical employees do a fairly wretched job with quality control), and you’re a bit sour about it.

    Despite your deep concern for what might happen if Canonical tanks, consider this: of all the distros I’ve used (35+), only two have shown consistent stability and quality control. They are Red Hat (or CentOS, the free clone), which is produced by a powerful enterprise Linux vendor; and Slackware, independently supported by Patrick Volkerding and some volunteers. Why does Slackware’s quality stay high? Because Pat cares about producing a stable product, not keeping to a marketing timetable.

    Just my 2¢

  36. grfgguvf
    grfgguvf November 10, 2008 at 6:35 pm | | Reply

    One more thing came to my mind. Mandriva could probably sue Canonical for the illegal retail practice known as “dumping”. Flooding the market with very cheap or free products. Linux was always free to download, but Linux CDs shipped to your door were not, and it could be reasonably argued as dumping. Heh, even Microsoft might be willing to team up with you guys, there is a sound argument to present to the court about lost sales of preinstalled Windows or boxed Linuxes.

  37. Mandriva vs. Ubuntu « toros and the grumpy groundhog

    […] managerre kĹ‘kemĂ©nyen odamondogatott blogjában a Canonicalnak. Már a cĂ­m is elĂ©g beszĂ©des: MiĂ©rt nem szeretem a Canonicalt. Mondjuk Ă©n nem is találkoztam volna ezzel a bejegyzĂ©ssel, ha nem olvasgatom ma az Ubuntu […]

  38. Veetmo
    Veetmo November 15, 2008 at 12:51 am | | Reply

    Here is my point of view about this issue.
    To simplify my argument i will say that here we have two business models somewhat opposed to each other, one that is based on making profit from the lack of technology on “the market”, and this is the model that most of the companies that sell operating systems, or IT solutions use. There is another business model that was tried for a while, but abandoned as not so profitable, in which a company makes profit on the abundance of technology on “the market”.
    To make myself clear, what i think M. Shuttleworth’s vision is, is to bring to the users an OS that can just anything that a 21st century human being is entitled to have, and

    This business model is visionary, as it is based on freedom of the users to choose the OS that fits to their needs, a choice in whether they want to contribute, as donations, and gives them the choice of being “lazy”. The system is fully functional on most of the hardware today, and Canonical can make money and become profitable only is there is support or service needed from the users side. All they need to do is make a beautiful, useful OS that most of the people need, and grow the penetration of their “product” that advertises itself actually and reach the critical mass of “lazy” customers.
    In this model one uses the OS freely and becomes customer to Canonical by choice.
    Of course that will hurt the companies that use the other business model, but already is too late. Now these companies either adapt to the new situation or start a PR rant that leads eventually nowhere for them.
    There is a lot of courage from Mark’s side and there is also a big heart. And that my friend i appreciate.
    I understand your struggle, your arguments and i also understand you would like to protect the status-quo, of how thing were in the past, but things are moving forward, we all are moving forward.
    It’s a time for celebration rather than whining.

  39. staticsoda
    staticsoda December 8, 2008 at 10:35 pm | | Reply

    Man I got no quarrel with you.
    I read your post.

    But every man should ask himself two questions:
    What have you done for your fellow man?
    Are you your brothers’ keeper?

    Look at the yield.

    This wood you speak of is the software Mandriva packages and sells. Just like all the other distributions.

    You are not carving anything on that wood. You just wrap it up. You are a distributor like Walmart. The actual artisan has his work stolen by you essentially.

    Seriously are you paying the guy that makes pidgin any proceeds from your sales of the Mandriva OS? I think Google pays that guy. Are you paying Google? Have you paid KDE, QT?

    For the record, Slackware, Novel/Suse, Redhat, Vector, and all the other comerical based distributions are ripping off the developers.

    It’s similar to a Preacher that begs money in the church house. A long time ago a Preacher would have a day job.e.

    Dire Straits summed it up best,

    “And Harry doesn’t mind if he doesn’t make the scene. He’s got a daytime job he’s doing alright. He can play honky tonk just like anything “

  40. La malvada Ubuntu ataca de nuevo | Mundo Linux

    […] a pesar de que cumplĂ­an todas las reglas existentes, incluidas las de la propia Debian. Ahora, en este artĂ­culo, un trabajador de Mandriva acusa a Canonical básicamente de “competencia desleal”: El […]

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