The Ups and Downs of Ubuntu

The Ups and Downs of Ubuntu

Article from Issue 201/2017
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Canonical has pitched Ubuntu as an OS for many purposes – desktops, servers, convergence, and the cloud. We look at the distribution's checkered history and where it's heading.

Making money from Linux is no easy task. Sure, Red Hat has done extraordinarily well over the years, and after a few bumps on the road, SUSE is looking healthy as well. But, for every financially successful distro vendor out there, you can find 10 other companies that have fallen by the wayside. Think about Xandros, Lindows (aka Linspire), and Mandriva, just to name a few. Those distros all had their strengths and benefits, but ultimately there just wasn't enough consumer demand to keep them going.

So, what have Red Hat and SUSE done right? Both companies started off with distributions aimed at hobbyists and home users – if you've been around the Linux world for a while, you may remember the chunky boxed sets with CDs and manuals you could have delivered by mail. But in the long run, Red Hat and SUSE have achieved success in large enterprises, providing long-term support and other add-on services for their distros.

With Ubuntu, Canonical has tried to get a foothold in many markets: home desktops, mobile devices, servers, and (most recently) the cloud. Some pundits have accused the company of behaving somewhat erratically over the years, jumping onto the latest bandwagon but never fully committing to a specific market. Others suggest this was the right approach – dabbling in new territories to see where money could be made.

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