Interview with Mark Shuttleworth
In April 2012, ubuntuusers conducted an e-mail interview with Mark Shuttleworth. The German translation of the interview was published in Ikhaya, the news magazine of the German ubuntuusers community,
The following text consists of the (unedited) original version of the interview:
|Mark Shuttleworth (2009) (Photo: Benoît Courty, Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)|
Is your About me 🇬🇧 section on the Ubuntu site still up to date? Or did some of the facts/your opinions change since writing it?
That's very old! I haven't updated it in a long time, but I still agree with most of it ☺
Do you regularly read blogs about Ubuntu?
Yes, I enjoy gathering diverse opinions on what we've done and what we should do. The open source community is very insightful and also very opinionated, and even though we can't do everything that folk suggest, in part since different people make completely contradictory suggestions, it's still useful to read the commentary.
How satisfied are you with the current (commercial and technical) state of Ubuntu and Unity? What is still lacking?
There is much still to do but I think we can be justly proud of the accomplishment of designing and building a completely new interface for the Linux desktop. Yes, introducing change is difficult, and when you have 10x the number of users of the next most popular distro that will generate 10x the amount of commentary! But we know that change is coming, regardless, and we wanted there to be a free and open source interface that was ready for the full range of personal computing environments: phone, tablet, tv, desktop. Unity was designed for that. As such, I think it's extremely important for the free software world that it exists and that it has so many people helping to make it great.
What's your general assessment of the reception of Unity?
Some of the commentary was spot on, some was overly negative, and some was overly glowing. That's just how it is.
What matters to me is that when we take 10 developers, or 10 artists, or 10 random people off the street and put them in front of Unity they get much more done in an hour than they do with Gnome 2 or any other Linux desktop environment, old or new, and the numbers are comparable to the best in the commercial business. That's a huge leap forward for Linux.
We still have many bugs to fix, and are very grateful for the help we get from a large community that wants Unity to succeed because they see that we actually care about the desktop and the client experience.
What are the reasons for rearranging Jonathan Riddell's tasks, i.e. taking him away from Kubuntu development? What consequences will this rearrangement have for Kubuntu und the future of Ubuntu and its derivatives in general?
The Ubuntu archives include multiple desktop environments, and we like that. There are multiple communities that use that infrastructure to make Ubuntu-based derivatives, and for me, that's a very positive thing. It costs us good money, but it also makes Ubuntu useful to more people, and I feel good about that.
We thought that Kubuntu would be a useful offering for businesses deploying Linux, but it turned out we couldn't sell that service globally. It seems there are other companies which have specific regional focuses that could do a better job of that.
We continue to invest a lot in the core that makes Kubuntu possible, but we are not interested in continuing it as a commercial offering. So the changes suit pretty much everyone: we're signalling to our customers that the desktop we will support is the Unity desktop, and others get to step up and offer KDE services without feeling like Canonical is a competitor.
Is there a way to eliminate Bug #1 🇬🇧? What's still missing to establish Linux as a main contender (say: X% market share) in the Desktop PC market?
Many different factors ☺. Our focus is just on making Unity a fantastic desktop experience. People who love the desktop and want to help Linux can help by joining that effort! For us to win, we need at least one really great story, not five mediocre stories.
How important is the Ubuntu brainstorm website 🇬🇧 for the development of Ubuntu?
The technical board does review the top items there. And it serves as a way for people who share the same idea, or related ideas, to shape them and further them.
But having an idea is only a small part of getting something done. It's an important part, but it's the easiest part.
Ubuntu is a consultative meritocracy. We identify, from the top down, the people we think can lead pieces best, and then we shortlist them for a consultation poll of relevant members of the community. So for long term, identified roles like team leadership and ownership of technical or social parts of the project, you need to be recognised from the top, and appreciated from the bottom, so to speak. But a lot of decision-making is informal, it happens on the spot between people who are there and care. We don't route all decisions through committees or the dictator (who, alas, is busy micro-managing something else most of the time). If a decision is taken or a change is made that causes controversy, we can usually identify someone or some team who is responsible for thinking about it a bit harder. And if THAT doesn't solve the issue, we can escalate all the way up to El Presidente, mois. But the vast, vast majority of what happens, happens just because someone was there who cared and did the work.
So, if you care, you need to find other people who care, and who can do the work, and it will usually get done in Ubuntu. Throwing an idea into brainstorm might help to start to bring together others who care, but unless you can attract them and convince them, it will not happen. The TB does review the top items, as I said, so it *might* get someone else assigned to it if it's a VERY hot topic AND the TB thinks its worth doing. But a better approach is to start looking for people to help get it done. Of course, sometimes the project can't have its cake and eat it. And if that's the case with your idea, then you need to win the debate so we choose your idea over the other option. I have to resolve those differences occasionally, and it's never popular with the crowd who don't get what they want. But that's just tough - we need the ability to make those decisions, nobody has yet invented the crystal ball to tell us which one is the correct one, so we lean on our leader, ultimately including me, and make the decision as best we can.
What features does Ubuntu still lack? What's still needed to be accomplished in order to let users say: Ubuntu is the simplest and most secure desktop OS?
There's lots to be done! However, I think we are pretty close on both of those fronts. AppArmor is an amazing and *usable* security framework, which makes it much better than the other options, because if people don't use security, then it's no point in doing all of that work. And Unity scores very highly when we test it against MacOS and Windows - people *get* it, they are immediately productive with it. Of course, some people have other preferences, that's fine, but on usability we know we do very well both for heavy users who want a lot of keyboard shortcuts, and lightweight users who want everything clear and simple.
On the Ubuntu website 🇬🇧, "Linux" is mentioned only once. (On the community page 🇬🇧.) What role does "Linux" play for Canonical? How much "Linux" will Ubuntu be in the future?
Linux is the kernel for Ubuntu and it will probably always be that.
Future of Ubuntu¶
Who do you see as Ubuntu's main target group in the medium term? What about desktop users? Will the main focus remain on them?
Most users of Ubuntu will be on the desktop for some time, so yes, that's what we care most about. We do most of our work on the desktop, and most of our design for the desktop.
Our vision has broadened to a wider class of devices. And a lot of the design work on the desktop is lining up to fit into that vision. That's not because the desktop interface is going to be exactly the same as the tv or phone or tablet interface. Each of those has to be true to it's form factor. The desktop must be a great desktop, and the phone a great phone, and the need for family coherence should not undermine either of those.
How about cooperations with Desktop PC hardware manufacturers? Do you still cooperate with Dell? Will there be other cooperations in the near future?
We will ship PC's with Dell, HP, Lenovo, Asus and Acer this year. Many millions of PC's!
Ubuntu TV and mobile devices¶
Is Canonical in negotiations with TV manufactures about shipping Ubuntu TV with their TV sets? If so: Do you already have binding agreements? With whom?
Yes, we are in discussions, and we won't say more until we have a shipping TV.
Are you in negotiations with manufacturers of tablets and/or smartphones? If so: Do you already have binding agreements? With whom?
Same as for TV ☺
Will Ubuntu TV support (mass market, commercial, DRM) BlueRay discs?
Role of the community¶
How do you see the role of the Ubuntu community? How do you react to critical feedback? Do you intend to change/improve the existing interaction mechanisms between Canonical and the community?
The community makes Ubuntu a more rounded, more interesting product that is more useful to more people. I think community members know that they can benefit from all the work Canonical does and then help to make Ubuntu even better for the specific people that they care about. And it makes it more fun and interesting to work at Canonical, on Ubuntu. So both the community and Canonical benefit from the relationship. And that's what makes Ubuntu different to many other projects which either separate the product from the community work (you can help build Fedora, but you cannot give RHEL to your friends) or don't have a product at all, just a project.
Does Canonical plan to integrate the national communities more strongly?
Not into Canonical, no! That would mean hiring all of them, and there are too many! But we do love to support people who make Ubuntu better for local friends, family and enterprises.
Financial situation of Canonical¶
Do you have any plans for the future of Canonical/Ubuntu in case Canonical/Ubuntu won't break even in the medium and long run? What would this mean for Ubuntu?
There is a trust to ensure that all of the long term maintenance commitments for Ubuntu releases are met, no matter what happens to Canonical. But I don't think we'll ever need that, because Ubuntu is becoming more and more important to large enterprises that want to work with Canonical to meet their needs with Ubuntu. We provide tools and solutions for audit and compliance, governance and management of large Ubuntu deployments. So the CFO likes to work with Canonical, and the CTO likes to choose Ubuntu.
What are the most important revenue streams for Canonical at the moment? Does Canonical break even (resp. when does Canonical plan to break even)?
As a private company, we don't disclose revenue information.