ubuntu-karmic-koala-questionsCanonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth on Oct. 26 is set to speak with the press about Ubuntu 9.10 Desktop Edition and Server Edition. WorksWithU will be extra careful not to "hype" Ubuntu 9.10 over the next few days. Instead, we hope to ask Shuttleworth some timely questions about the new Ubuntu and Canonical's long-term business strategy. Here's a sampling of issues on our mind.

Admittedly, we're long-term believers in Ubuntu. Otherwise why would we have launched WorksWithU? But that doesn't mean Canonical and Ubuntu 9.10 are guaranteed to succeed. Eight key questions include:

1. Any new Netbook wins? This is actually a multi-part question.

First up, Canonical and Dell in September 2009 announced a preview of Ubuntu Moblin Developer Remix Edition, available on a Dell Mini 10v netbook. What's the early reaction?

Second, can we expect more PC makers to ship Ubuntu netbooks, particularly in North America. I'm familiar with ZaReason and System76 Ubuntu netbooks. But my recent conversations with Lenovo Director of SMB Jay McBain leads me to believe that the vast majority of North American netbook buyers want Windows. Does Shuttleworth see the netbook market differently?

2. Any new Ubuntu desktop preloads?: Dell has finally re-introduced an Ubuntu desktop PC -- a rather impressive move, considering Dell also has its hands full prepping for Windows 7's Oct. 22 debut.

Does Shuttleworth think Canonical can win more Ubuntu Desktop Edition deals with PC vendors -- especially as Windows 7 generates buzz on main street?

3. Any new server relationships? This is a particularly difficult market for Canonical to crack, since Windows Server, Red Hat Enterprise Server and Novell SUSE Linux have such strong server followings.

Back in April 2009, Shuttleworth said Ubuntu Server Edition 9.04 had been tested to run on 45 different server configurations from IBM, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Lenovo and smaller providers. Impressive. But most hardware providers don't yet preinstall Ubuntu Server Edition on their systems.

Key question marks include:
4. Is Ubuntu in the cloud for real?: If Canonical can't convince hardware makers to preload Ubuntu on servers, cloud computing represents a back door into the server market.

Nicolas ("Nick") Barcet, server product manager at Canonical, recently described the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC) strategy on WorksWithU. And Canonical's key cloud partners now include Eucalyptus Systems Inc., Cohesive Flexible Technologies, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and RightScale.

But Canonical has made it clear Ubuntu 9.10 is a stepping stone to more comprehensive cloud offerings in Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx, scheduled for April 2010 debut).

In the meantime, a key question: Can Canonical point to specific customers, universities and organizations that are running Ubuntu applications in the cloud?

5. Are ISVs embracing Ubuntu Server Edition?: During the April 2009 kick-off for Ubuntu 9.04, Shuttleworth conceded that Canonical needed to bring more ISVs (such as Oracle) onto Ubuntu Server Edition. Since that time, some key ISVs -- such as Alfresco and OpenBravo -- have expanded their Ubuntu Server Edition support. Are more ISVs on the way?

6. Ubuntu One and Landscape - Money Makers?: Canonical has been working hard to launch cloud and SaaS services around Ubuntu. Two examples include Ubuntu One (for shared storage) and Landscape (for remote Ubuntu management). Both are fairly new but how soon will they potentially generate profits for Canonical? Also, who are the early adopters of Landscape? And what's the early reaction to Canonical's on-premise version of Landscape?

7. How is the Ubuntu partner ecosystem growing?: When IBM and Canonical launched a joint Ubuntu desktop initiative in North America on Oct. 20, 2009, IBM claimed that "hundreds" of partners would back the effort in 2010. Sounds promising.

I also know training partners like Fast Lane and Bridge Education are helping to educate Ubuntu VARs and IT managers. But what other steps is Canonical taking to grow the Ubuntu channel partner ecosystem?

8. When will Canonical be profitable?: I realize Canonical is privately held. And Shuttleworth isn't obligated to answer this question. But WorksWithU readers keep pushing us to cover Canonical's business responsibly. No hype. Instead, real discussion -- including an ongoing look at Canonical's potential march to profitability. We'll keep financial topics in mind as we cover Canonical's business strategy.

Got additional questions for Shuttleworth? I'm all ears.

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