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Microsoft’s dominance is over: Mark Shuttleworth closes Ubuntu bug no.1

Mark Shuttleworth

Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth has officially declared an end to Microsoft’s dominance.

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The innovator and entrepreneur, who carries the tongue-in-cheek label of Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator for Life (SABDFL) at Ubuntu posted a comment on the Ubuntu bugs page, declaring Bug number one fixed. That bug’s title: Microsoft has a majority market share.

Shuttleworth cites the prevalence of Android devices as one reason for closing the bug. He’s got a point too. Analysis from renowned web analyst Mary Meeker, shows that there are far more users of Android and iOS users combined than there are Windows users and that Android alone actually has an edge of Microsoft.

Shuttleworth freely admits that Android probably isn’t the version of Linux everyone wanted to win (Ubuntu wouldn’t be building its own mobile OS if it was) but believes that it is “without doubt an open source platform that offers both practical and economic benefits to users and industry”.

He adds that it’s not just about numbers any more though thinks that it’s time Ubuntu to stop comparing itself to its competitors and focus on excellence for the sake of excellence. “It’s better for us to focus our intent on excellence in our own right, rather than our impact on someone else’s product”, he writes.

Ultimately then this isn’t Ubuntu, or even the wider Linux community, giving up on dominating the desktop market. Instead it’s a realisation that the game has changed over the past few years. Desktop usage is shrinking and mobile continues to grow. For Ubuntu not to recognise that would be failure on its part to do what the best kind of hackers do: adapt and stay ahead of the curve. It already has a fair amount of catching up to do in the mobile OS arena, but if it can deliver on Shuttleworth’s promise to “make big changes ourselves — in our processes, our practices, our tools, and our relationships”, then Ubuntu could survive, and even thrive into the next decade.

Read Shuttleworth’s full comment below:

Personal computing today is a broader proposition than it was in 2004: phones, tablets, wearables and other devices are all part of the mix for our digital lives. From a competitive perspective, that broader market has healthy competition, with IOS and Android representing a meaningful share (see http://www.zdnet.com/windows-has-fallen-behind-apple-ios-and-google-android-7000008699/ and in particular http://cdn-static.zdnet.com/i/r/story/70/00/008699/meeker620-620×466-620×466.jpg?hash=ZQxmZmDjAz&upscale=1).

Android may not be my or your first choice of Linux, but it is without doubt an open source platform that offers both practical and economic benefits to users and industry. So we have both competition, and good representation for open source, in personal computing.

Even though we have only played a small part in that shift, I think it’s important for us to recognize that the shift has taken place. So from Ubuntu’s perspective, this bug is now closed.

There is a social element to this bug report as well, of course. It served for many as a sort of declaration of intent. But it’s better for us to focus our intent on excellence in our own right, rather than our impact on someone else’s product. In the (many) years since this bug was filed, we’ve figured out how to be amazing on the cloud, and I hope soon also how to be amazing for developers on their desktops, and perhaps even for everyday users across that full range of devices. I would rather we find a rallying call that celebrates those insights, and leadership.

It’s worth noting that today, if you’re into cloud computing, the Microsoft IAAS team are both technically excellent and very focused on having ALL OS’s including Linux guests like Ubuntu run extremely well on Azure, making them a pleasure to work with. Perhaps the market shift has played a role in that. Circumstances have changed, institutions have adapted, so should we.

Along those lines, it’s good to reflect on how much has changed since 2004, and how fast it’s changed. For Ubuntu, our goal remains to deliver fantastic experiences: for developers, for people building out production infrastructure, and for end-users on a range of devices. We are doing all of that in an environment that changes completely every decade. So we have to be willing to make big changes ourselves — in our processes, our practices, our tools, and our relationships. Change this bug status is but a tiny example.

Image: Nitot (via Wikimedia Commons).

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