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Summary:

Nine years ago, the Linux distribution Ubuntu came out with the mission of challenging Windows’ status as the default preinstalled PC operating system. But, since then, the whole game changed.

Mark Shuttleworth. Source: Canonical
photo: Canonical

When the first version of the highly popular Ubuntu Linux distribution came out in 2004, the first bug listed for fixing was never going to be an easy one: it was nothing less than the dethroning of Microsoft as the market leader in the new desktop PC operating system space. As the report read, “this is a bug which Ubuntu and other [open-source] projects are meant to fix”.

That was then. Less than a decade later, Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu sponsor company Canonical, has closed the bug. It’s not that Ubuntu has replaced Windows as the default for preinstalled PC operating systems, of course – the reason, he noted on Thursday, was the wholesale redefinition of what personal computing is:

“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.”

And Android, of course, is now in the market-dominating position that Windows once held. Not ideal, said Shuttleworth, but a vast improvement:

“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.”

These days, Canonical is pushing hard to make Ubuntu a major player on everything from smartphones to servers. In cloud, Canonical was an early OpenStack supporter and is now releasing Ubuntu Server versions in close coordination with that open-source project.

Of course, Microsoft knows it’s facing a very different world today from that of 2004, and Shuttleworth was full of praise for the resulting shift in attitude:

“The Microsoft IaaS team are both technically excellent and very focused on having ALL OSs 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.”

It’s really worth reminding ourselves of how, in many ways, open source won. True, it’s still hard to walk into a store and buy a PC that doesn’t have Windows preinstalled – one of the key complaints in that original bug report – but, in a way, that doesn’t matter anymore. Microsoft may still dominate the PC market, but what we traditionally think of as a PC is no longer the default personal computer. Heck, these days we even have a market-leading and (largely) open-source browser, in the shape of Chrome, that has become a significant operating system of sorts in its own right.

Back in 2004, very few people saw that one coming.

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  1. Ubuntu is trying desperately to gloss over their epic failure by associating themselves all of a sudden with the mobile revolution and the flawed “post-PC” propaganda model.

    Ubuntu almost seems to be trying to spin the success of mobile as a victory for them. But Windows remains the market leader, while even after all these years Mac has barely scraped past 5% markets share. Ubuntu isn’t even worth mentioning.

    1. “Ubuntu isn’t even worth mentioning.”…..we’ll put it in the same category as windows phone lol

  2. This would matter if my technological choices were ideologically driven, but they’re not. I use whatever tools get the job done and it just so happens to be Linux & Windows.

  3. Can you really call Chrome open source? Technically, Chromium would be the truly open source version.

    1. You know, you have a point. I’ve stuck a qualifier in there now…

  4. Microsoft offers so many products, thinking Ubuntu can take the lead here is a joke. With an OS? Also Microsoft offers a guarantee that the products, the entire infrastructure they provide will be supported in the future, not many companies can provide this kind of guarantee to their clients and I am not talking about the OS only. It is nice to see some competition, but it will be very hard for Ubuntu.

    1. <>

      … I don’t know too many people who COULDN’T contradict that. Where exactly is it written?

  5. People have an interesting take on Market Share. I for one like what MS did with Win 8. But the Mac only has 8 % Martket share is over blown. Think about this for a sec… Mac has 8% Market share with 45% of the profit in the PC sales area. So all of the IMO combine along with MS take 55% of the PCM market Profit. In the Business world profit is what matters not market share. And no I’m not a isheep I’m a MS guy but the facts are the facts. 8% market share 45 % profit.

  6. And for every one that’s going to ask me where I got my information from google it.

  7. “It’s really worth reminding ourselves of how, in many ways, open source won.”

    Yet people still use proprietary Google Search to find things, kinda sad for open source community, no? Such shallow victory :))

    Keep in mind that Android also uses proprietary graphic drivers from Google, and several key apps like Google Play is closed as well.

    “Open source” is mostly a marketing tool used by companies to create a “friendly” image, most companies won’t release their source code for their strategic assets. There’s no battle between proprietary software vs open source software, that’s just a wishful thinking from fat neckbeards who watch too many Star Wars

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