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Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth: IoT, Ubuntu and the yogurt of the future

Jon Gold | Oct. 20, 2017
"Raspberry Pi plus Ubuntu plus an app makes a huge difference" in the world of IoT, he says.


NW: Any particular verticals that are more likely than others to mint those millionaires?

MS: Just follow your own day, is what I would say - you wake up at home and have a bunch of transport, have a bunch of communications, you work in an office, you socialize in another kind of structure somebody else is building, you move through public spaces, and end up back at home. Every phase of that, whether it's retail or entertainment or commercial or personal, you're surrounded by the opportunity to make things smarter, whether that's smarter control over lighting and energy or security access control, or whatever.


NW: Is this where you saw Ubuntu even five years ago?

MS: So I'm an investor, and I got very lucky when I was young, with security on the Internet. But if you look at everything I've done, you look at the world and say, "What are the deep things that will take five or 10 years to play out?" Because if you're reading about something that's, right now, imminent and hot, it's generalized enough that the winners and losers are probably already at the table.

So you kind of have to spot stuff before it's mainstream news, and be willing to run with that stuff, right or wrong, for four or five years or a decade. What was clear to me was that the open source approach to technology would be much more than hobbyists. It would really come to define, first, the Rebels, and then the Galactic Empire.


NW: (Quietly assumes that Shuttleworth just saw the new trailer for "Last Jedi")

There was a time when open source was really about independent experts who were getting things right on their own time. But now, Microsoft, Google, Amazon are falling over themselves to give away as much open source on machine learning - this is the crown jewels, effectively, and they're trying to give it away as open source. It's the industrialization of that prospect.


NW: That would have been tough to predict a few years ago.

MS: I would say it was a fairly cogent bet that if I could focus on professionalizing free software and finding economics that didn't interfere with the flow of it being free, then that would be [a winner.] I did not predict cloud, but we were in the right place at the right time.


NW: Canonical is a software company, but it's got a prominent role in IoT thanks to Ubuntu Core - are you guys going to need additional hardware expertise to keep up?

MS: The trend is to standardize the modules. So if you think about the original PC, what really made it was that it's a form factor where you had the expectation that you could plug into it. That's really what differentiated the PC from other personal computers that had come before. You could take the lid off the box, and there was a bus there and you could plug something into it. It didn't have to be designed by the same people that designed the box.


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