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6 things Mark Shuttleworth should do as CEO of Canonical

Swapnil Bhartiya | April 17, 2017
Shuttleworth is re-taking control of Canonical. Can he get the company behind Ubuntu back on track?

Mark Shuttleworth
Mark Shuttleworth. Credit: Swapnil Bhartiya

Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth is re-taking leadership of the company as Jane Silber steps down from the role of CEO and joins the board of directors.

As he returns as CEO, Shuttleworth has unique challenges ahead, as well as the opportunity to give Canonical a sharp focus and a lean structure that may attract investors (a move he is reportedly exploring).

Here is what Shuttleworth should do to as he takes Canonical into a new direction.

Divert resources from desktop & mobile: The year of ‘desktop’ Linux or mobile Linux will never come; Linux is already there with Android and Chrome OS. As Henry Ford said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Canonical should stop wasting resources waiting for the ‘faster horse’ (i.e., Linux on desktop and mobile) and divert resources towards enterprise.

Create Ubuntu Enterprise: Canonical should follow the lead of SUSE and Red Hat and create a subscription-based enterprise version of Ubuntu. Ubuntu Enterprise may have a lifespan of ten years and come with commercial support plus a private repository of enterprise applications.

Create Ubuntu Community Edition: Creating a subscription-based enterprise edition of Ubuntu doesn’t mean Canonical should ditch its massive user base. Instead, the company should create a free of cost version of Ubuntu that has all the features of enterprise, except for a shorter life-cycle, no access to commercial support or private repositories.

The Community Edition of Ubuntu will be sponsored by Canonical sponsored, but a project managed by the community, which will also serve as the upstream for Ubuntu Enterprise, just like Fedora and openSUSE are upstream for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise.

The Community Edition of Ubuntu can be managed by a foundation, which is a mix of community members and Canonical employees. Once again, Shuttleworth doesn’t have to go any further than looking at the openSUSE Board for a model.

It will be a win-win situation for both Canonical and the larger community: Canonical will benefit from the project as upstream for Ubuntu Enterprise and the community will have more say and control over the project that they love.

Having a Community Edition may also solve the problem of having too many forks and unofficial derivatives of Ubuntu. These derivatives are wasting developers limited resources by essentially doing the same thing (i.e., making it easier for users to use Ubuntu). Canonical-controlled Ubuntu makes it hard for people to get the features they want in Ubuntu; a community-controlled Ubuntu will solve that issue.

There is a reason why you don’t see any successful forks of Fedora, openSUSE or Debian (except for Ubuntu), because these community-based projects empower the community to serve everyone.


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