ubuntu-910-vs-windows-7Canonical's Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) and Microsoft's Windows 7 are expected to debut within days of each other in October 2009. Some open source pundits will surely hype a showdown between the two operating systems. But Canonical needs to carefully communicate the broader Ubuntu 9.10 story to media, customers and partners. Here are seven potential steps to success for Canonical and the Ubuntu 9.10 launch.

First, the basics:
  • Windows 7: Microsoft has confirmed plans to begin selling Windows 7 in retail stores on October 22, 2009. Generally speaking, Windows 7 has earned positive buzz from testers. Many of North America's top channel partners and managed service providers seem impressed with the operating system. Just last week, mindSHIFT Senior Executive Officer Tyler Roye told me he's very impressed with Windows 7's design and speed.
  • Ubuntu 9.10: Code-named Karmic Koala, the Ubuntu 9.10 release will feature faster boot times and some other flashy¬† improvements. But this is more than a desktop upgrade. Canonical is pushing hard to strengthen Ubuntu on mobile Internet devices (MIDs), netbooks, notebooks, servers and cloud systems.

Seven Steps to Success

Sure, Ubuntu will need to compete against Windows 7 on some fronts. But Canonical needs to carefully broaden the story -- strengthening existing relationships and promoting new ones. A few examples:

1. Desktops: During July 2009, Dell quietly stopped selling Ubuntu desktop PCs in the U.S. But Dell itself says it will soon ship a new Ubuntu desktop. And niche suppliers like ZaReason and System76 continue to serve the Ubuntu 9.04 faithful well. Canonical should return the favor: Solidify the Dell relationship while rewarding ZaReason and System76 with some publicity during the Ubuntu 9.10 launch.

2. Mobile (Notebooks, Netbooks, MIDs and SmartBooks): Here again, Dell, System76 and ZaReason all remain loyal partners. Hewlett-Packard also has an Ubuntu-driven netbook. And Canonical is working to adjust the Ubuntu Netbook Remix Edition's user interface.

As part of the Ubuntu 9.10 launch, Canonical needs to clearly communicate which vendors are shipping netbooks and notebooks with the new operating system, including links to landing pages to help accelerate buyer decisions.

Also, Canonical will need to carefully clarify its relationship with Intel in the Mobile Internet Device market. Canonical and Intel in mid-2007 announced joint MID work. But much has changed since that time, including Google's Android and Chrome OS efforts, plus Intel's Moblin (mobile Linux) efforts.

Canonical offered some MID updates in February 2009. I'd expect more MID updates during Ubuntu 9.10's launch -- including potential buzz about so-called SmartBooks.

3. Servers and Virtualization: Hewlett-Packard recently decided to certify its latest ProLiant servers for Ubuntu Server Edition 9.04. And in April 2009, Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth said Ubuntu Server Edition had been certified to run on roughly 45 different server configurations from Dell, IBM, Lenovo, Sun and others.

Few server vendors actually offer Ubuntu Server Edition preloaded with their systems. But if Ubuntu Server Edition 9.10 is certified to run on four-dozen or more server configurations, Shuttlworth will have continued the company's server progress. Also, Canonical needs to ensure ISV announcements -- particularly recent moves with Alfresco and Openbravo -- show continued progress with 9.10's debut. A list of new ISVs would be particularly welcome during 9.10's launch.

Oh, and let's not forget the IBM-Canonical-Virtual Bridges partnership, which virtualizes Ubuntu desktops on Linux servers. Some early customers could be on-board in time for Ubuntu 9.10's launch, I suspect.

4. Cloud: Partners like RightScale have been quick to evangelize their cloud efforts with Ubuntu. And Shuttleworth has openly stated Canonical's close working relationship with Eucalyptus for private cloud solutions. During Ubuntu 9.10's launch, Shuttleworth and Canonical need to reinforce the operating system's relationship to Eucalyptus.

5. Training: Canonical in mid-2009 expanded its training offerings for Ubuntu. The company will win more fans if Ubuntu 9.10-focused training debuts around the launch of the new operating system.

6. Deployment Tools and Services: From Landscape (remote administration) to Ubuntu One (shared file storage), Canonical needs to articulate how the company's tools help businesses and end-users to deploy and manage Ubuntu 9.10 systems and related files.

7. Channel Partners and Customers: Canonical certainly has been adding channel partners (resellers, integrators, etc.) in recent months. When Ubuntu 9.10 arrives, Canonical needs to highlight a few of profitable Ubuntu channel partners and their end-customers.

Most of all, Canonical and the Ubuntu community need to ensure Ubuntu 9.10 debuts only when it's truly ready for production deployments. Instead of choosing a specific Ubuntu 9.10 ship date, 76 percent of WorksWithU readers say they want the new operating system to ship "when Canonical deems it ready to ship."

My best guess: Ubuntu 9.10 is on track to ship in around two months. But don't let anyone tell you the new Ubuntu release is just a desktop offering. Canonical has far grander ambitions.

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