Ubuntu Founder: Linux Should Focus on Looks


PORTLAND, Ore. — Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu Linux and one-time cosmonaut, delivered a rousing keynote oration to the OSCON conference here, detailing the ingredients needed for success in open source and on the Linux desktop in particular.

According to Shuttleworth, the key is to make the Linux desktop surpass Apple’s desktop in terms of beauty. “The great task in front of us over the next two years is to lift the experience of the Linux desktop from something that is stable and robust and not so pretty into something that is art,” Shuttleworth said. “Can we blow right past Apple in the user experience that we deliver to our end users?”

Shuttleworth stressed the need for an improved Linux experience to succeed in the world of the Web. “At Canonical we have been investing in the process and the methodology, and now we are investing in making the Linux desktop beautiful.”

In support of free software

While some might think the idea of giving away free software as a way to build a business is a recipe for disaster, Shuttleworth thinks the opposite. His commercial venture Canonical, the lead sponsor of Ubuntu, is significantly focused on figuring out the economic problem of free software.

“The free software process is the best way to drive change, innovation and create wealth,” he told the audience. “It is no accident that over the last 10 years many of the biggest wealth creators have been built on free software with companies like Google and eBay.”

Shuttleworth argued that the big question the free software world should ask is how they can drive innovation faster.

“First thing you can do is be the architect for it,” he said. “Build the platform to be accessible and embeddable, and that’s a platform for innovation.”

Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth
Source: OSCON

According to Shuttleworth, tools of participation are also key to ensuring innovation. “Choosing tools that make it easier for people to get in, get stuff done and get out is a winning strategy,” he explained.

The Ubuntu founder also issued a pitch for what he describes as a “meta-cadence” among open source projects. His idea is for a massive coordinated release of open source projects to help drive momentum and innovation.

“Imagine if we could all talk about the Summer 2009 platform,” Shuttleworth said. “Of course there would diversity in those platforms be it from Novell, Red Hat or Gentoo, but simply to be able to have this pulse across the free software ecosystem, imagine the awareness we would generate,” he added.

Fundamentally, though, an economic model is necessary, and vendors strive to deliver free software at enterprise-quality free of charge.

“That is the essence of what would we should be able to deliver, but we need economic models to support that,” Shuttleworth said.

According to Shuttleworth, innovative open source software that interests people the most, will work across Linux and Windows. He noted that while he is passionate about the Linux desktop, it’s also essential to figure out how to work with Windows. “It’s also important to have open tools, we can’t force common tools but we should be able to talk to each other around tools.”

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