As Mark Shuttleworth transitions Canonical's CEO crown to Jane Silber, The VAR Guy believes there are at least nine major Ubuntu priorities that Silber will need to address. Here's a look at the challenges -- and opportunities -- awaiting Silber when she assumes all of Canonical's CEO responsibilities in March 2010...

1. A New Community: Sure, Ubuntu has a strong open source community. And Shuttleworth will work to strengthen that community. But Silber needs to strengthen a different type of community -- a Canonical business ecosystem that includes hardware and software partners, service providers, channel partners and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers).

2. Strengthen the Server Story: To date, Ubuntu is known mostly as a desktop and mobile operating system, with relatively strong market share in the netbook market. But Canonical recently launched its second annual Ubuntu Server Edition research effort. Meanwhile, Sun Microsystems offers some support of Ubuntu Server Edition -- as do upstarts like System76 and ZaReason.

But Canonical needs more server partners... And whenever a noteworthy customer embraces Ubuntu Server Edition, Canonical needs to get the word out.

3. Show Cloud Success: Canonical has been working closely with cloud partners like Eucalyptus Systems Inc. and RightScale. And Ubuntu Server Edition 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) is expected to offer more cloud surprises when it debuts in April 2010.

But Canonical needs to show some tangible examples of cloud success. Who's running Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud and how are the deployments performing? The VAR Guy will be listening for answers.

4. Recruit Application Providers: Shuttleworth has conceded Ubuntu Server Edition needs more ISV (independent software vendor) support. Canonical Software Partner Manager John Pugh has been working on the ISV effort -- which includes stronger relationships with Alfresco (the open source content management company) and Openbravo (open source ERP).

The expected launch of Ubuntu Server Edition 10.04 in April 2010 may help Pugh's cause. But real progress will require folks like Oracle, IBM/Lotus and other traditional application providers to fully embrace Ubuntu.

5. Strengthen OEM Relationships: To Canonical's credit, Ubuntu seems to be making progress with Dell on desktops, notebooks and netbooks. But HP, Lenovo and other major PC makers haven't shown much interest in Ubuntu. Can Silber change that? Hmmm... The VAR Guy is watching and listening for clues.

6. Compete and Cooperate with Google, Intel: When Google started talking about Chrome OS in greater detail, Canonical disclosed that it was assisting Google with the new operating system. Sweet. At the same time, Canonical is working closely with Intel on Moblin (Mobile Linux) v2. Impressive.

Somehow, Canonical must both compete and cooperate as Google, Intel and other technology giants size up their own Linux strategies.

7. Disclose Customer Wins: Which businesses are running Ubuntu and which organizations are paying Canonical for support? Canonical needs to brag more about customer victories as they happen.

8. Related Services: Canonical is building a range of online and on-premise services to generate more revenue. The efforts include Ubuntu One (cloud storage and file sharing) and Landscape (remote Ubuntu systems administration).

Ken Drachnik, Landscape manager at Canonical, has clearly articulated the company's Landscape strategy, which includes on-premise and SaaS options.

But Canonical has to stay aggressive with Ubuntu One and Landscape communications and messaging.

9. Canonical Partner Program: Of course this blog entry requires a channel partner angle. Canonical is working with training centers -- such as Bridge Education and Fast Lane -- to get more IT managers and resellers up to speed on Ubuntu. But The VAR Guy wants to hear from solutions providers that are building profitable Ubuntu business practices...

No doubt, Silber will have a full plate when she takes on the CEO crown by March 1, 2010. But she's in an enviable position. Although it's difficult to track Canonical's financial performance, buzz about Ubuntu -- particularly on desktop and mobile systems -- continues to grow.