Mark Shuttleworth Canonical UbuntuDear Mark: You've made Ubuntu the most popular Linux distribution on desktops. You've established a footprint on notebooks and netbooks. But a lot of people wonder why you're marching Canonical -- and Ubuntu -- in new directions like the server. Don't listen to your critics. Keep marching upward. Here's why.

Software companies die when they start to rely on a single cash cow or one big hit product. Consider the evidence:
  • Novell nearly died because it relied too long on NetWare.
  • Lotus nearly died because it relied too long on 1-2-3.
  • Software companies like Artisoft and Banyan Systems essentially died because they relied too long on a single cash cow.

Can't See Beyond PCs?

Now, some pundits want Canonical to maintain its primary focus on desktops (including notebooks and netbooks). Keep enhancing Ubuntu for consumers, the pundits say, and you'll free the world from Windows.

I think that's faulty logic. Relying on a single product or revenue stream is too risky. Mark, you're smart to diversify your revenue streams with Landscape and soon, Ubuntu Server Edition 9.10 in the cloud.

Mark: If Canonical focused only on desktop wins, you'd be limiting Ubuntu to legacy markets (PCs and laptops) that no longer sit at the center of the IT universe. Today's IT is all about virtualized data centers. It's about centralized information that anyone can access, from anywhere.

Learn From Windows NT

Critics consider Ubuntu a toy that isn't ready to sit in a data center. Critics said the same thing when Microsoft launched Windows NT Advanced Server in 1993. The "experts" said NT was a New Toy... a joke compared to Unix.

But the joke was on the Unix establishment. NT chipped away at the Unix market and buried Novell's NetWare along the way.

I'm betting Canonical will eventually enjoy similar success on the server. But it's going to take time. HP has already agreed to certify its servers for Ubuntu. Fingers crossed, I suspect Dell and IBM will do the same before my next birthday. (I promise to reveal whether I was right or wrong when I blog on my next birthday...)

Your ISV (independent software vendor) and channel partner efforts have been hit-and-miss so far. I know the Canonical team is working hard on both fronts, but the industry doesn't see the results of the hard work. At least not yet.

Defend the Desktop, Attack the Server

But don't slow down your server efforts. Accelerate them. Red Hat and Novell are now coming after you on the desktop -- at least in certain corporate niches. Hold your ground on the desktop, but return fire on the server.

Mark, if Canonical retreats to the desktop, you'll be just another one-hit wonder software company. And those companies don't survive over the long haul.

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