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The Business Model of Ubuntu 254

Posted by Hemos
from the making-it-better dept.
Andareed writes "Open-source software companies, such as Ubuntu (an open-source Linux distribution), are better able to respond to user request and bugs than traditional software companies, such as Microsoft. Simon Law, head of the Quality Assurance department at Ubuntu in a talk given to the UW Computer Science Club, explains why this is, and how Ubuntu is leveraging the open-source model. Simon explains how the QA department at Ubuntu differs from traditional QA departments, through its use of the open-source community at large. Most interesting is Simon's views on what motivates open-source developers to develop software, and how open-source oriented businesses (specifically Ubuntu) are making money."
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The Business Model of Ubuntu

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  • QA at Ubuntu? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by asudhir (987272) on Monday July 31, 2006 @08:14AM (#15816582)
    If it is so good and responsive to user input, then maybe the next release will actually make wireless compatibility better instead of worse than the previous release?
  • Geez (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dolson (634094) on Monday July 31, 2006 @08:15AM (#15816586) Homepage Journal
    Ubunutu? Can we get an editor here?
  • Matter of scale (Score:5, Insightful)

    by treerex (743007) on Monday July 31, 2006 @08:21AM (#15816625) Homepage
    It seems to me that the reason Ubuntu (and other OS projects) can respond to user feedback and bug reports more quickly than larger (non-FOSS) companies is the relative sizes of the user communities. Compare the size of the Ubuntu install base to that of Windows (or Mac OS X, or...) and it becomes a no-brainer that you can respond more quickly. Don't get me wrong, I applaud the work the Ubuntu group does, but the ability to respond quickly will lesson as they grow. Compare with RedHat and its enterprise offerings.

    Just my US$0.02 worth.
  • Re:Matter of scale (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jbrader (697703) <stillnotpynchon@gmail.com> on Monday July 31, 2006 @08:23AM (#15816640)
    Or maybe they are just listening.
  • Re:Sounds Swell... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 31, 2006 @08:25AM (#15816655)
    There are thousands Ubuntu users, milions Windows users and couple of hunderts of OSX users that have problems like yours. On my laptop Ubuntu started in 1280x800 (max resolution on my monitor) and Windows started on 800x600 (and I couldn't make it bigger)("Dear Windows it's 2006?").

    You expirience isn't everybody's expirience.
  • Business model (Score:5, Insightful)

    by syntaxglitch (889367) on Monday July 31, 2006 @08:27AM (#15816669)
    I thought Ubuntu's business model was "be funded by an generous and independently wealthy geek". You mean to tell me it actually makes money?
  • Re:QA at Ubuntu? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 31, 2006 @08:44AM (#15816772)
    Maybe you just have unsupported hardware

    Then maybe this supertastic QA department that is so much better because it's open source and what not should, you know, like, support it or something?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 31, 2006 @08:51AM (#15816812)
    If you install the nvidia drivers from the repositories instead of installing your own nvidia drivers outside the standard package management system this won't be an issue.
  • Ubunto (Score:2, Insightful)

    by iPaqMan (230487) on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:09AM (#15816909)
    What is going to make Ubanto more than a Linux flavor of the week? The only distribution that seems to have real staying power is Red Hat. Every other distribution comes and goes in popularity like SUSE, Mandrake (Mandriva), Linspire, etc, etc...

    IMHO, the problem with Linux for the desktop is users have no loyalty. Once something better comes along they drop thier old distro like a bad habbit. This ultimately makes it impossible for a distro company to be profitable more than a few years.
  • Natural Selection (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LKM (227954) on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:29AM (#15817046) Homepage
    IMHO, the problem with Linux for the desktop is users have no loyalty. Once something better comes along they drop thier old distro like a bad habbit. This ultimately makes it impossible for a distro company to be profitable more than a few years.

    Watch natural selection at work. It's a good thing. The problem with Windows is that its users do not abandon it if they find something better. Hence, no incentive for Microsoft to improve Windows (see: Vista).

    Distros most certainly can have staying power, if they keep working on themselves and improving their distros. If they don't, good riddance.

  • Re:Matter of scale (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eivind Eklund (5161) on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:29AM (#15817049) Journal
    I'm sorry, but I believe you're taking a very minor parameter and attributing everything to it. In open source, the support community grows at roughly the same rate as the developer community, and there's completely different mechanisms at work.

    The reasons for faster response, from my point of view (having had a commit bit for FreeBSD for almost a decade now):

    • The developers actually do support. They're in contact with the end users. And some of the end users are other coders, and are allowed to do things with the OS code. This allows them to send in suggestions for how to fix their own problem. As opposed to the rumours, we only use these as is less than half the time - yet they're useful for pointing out things.
    • The developers are allowed to prioritize their own time. This result in both higher quality code (developers clean up when they feel cleanup is warranted), and easy end user problems being prioritized. Especially in combination with developers doing support.
    • Open source software is mostly designed based on what's technically reasonably easy, not marketing. This makes for simpler and more nimble codebases.
    • Open source goes through evolution: Those codebases that aren't nimble mostly die. In closed source software, those codebases that sell can add more resources (programmers) to get around not being nimble.
    I think these things are much more important. Especially the first two.

    Eivind.

  • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:34AM (#15817088)
    IMHO, the problem with Linux for the desktop is users have no loyalty. Once something better comes along they drop thier old distro like a bad habbit. This ultimately makes it impossible for a distro company to be profitable more than a few years.

    That may be very true for the home desktop, but probably not the business desktop. Ubuntu is targeting the business desktop with it's feature list, paid support options and now longer support guarantee. A business is much less likely to start switching distros based on the flavor-of-the-week mentality.

    Redhat recognized this by targeting the server market first. Then they made in-roads on the business desktop. Ubuntu, likewise has server offerings and business desktops.

    It's not that either one of them can't be used for home or hobby use, it's just that their default setup is not that. What is the biggest complaint for new users to either Ubuntu or Redhat? They can't play mp3s or watch videos. Those aren't normally high priorities in a business setting, but are for home use. Both distros have pretty simple instructions to add that capability, too, but neither include it out of the box (or ISO, so to speak). Why not? Because, ultimately, it's not their target audience.

    So, unless Ubuntu does something really dumb, it's going to be a major player. Will it always be number one on distrowatch? Probably not, but it's here to stay.
  • Re:Shuttleworth (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:38AM (#15817112)
    Just to play devil's advocate here, Gates is known for making huge charitable contributions.
  • Re:QA at Ubuntu? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Burz (138833) on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:42AM (#15817144) Journal
    I can't even set a WEP/WPA key with it without manually putting iwconfig into rclocal.

    What's with the general lack of security? On Xandros I've got what I need for laptop security: Private home folders by default, Encrypted home, firewall control, VPN client. On Ubuntu, its all "install/configure it yourself" and "use the HOWTOs n00b".

    The display detection is about the worst I've seen from the current crop of distros. Heading into xorg.conf is almost a forgone conclusion even with mundane graphics cards.

    (I wondered if the alpha had addressed any of these problems, so I installed edgy for a look: Default would not boot at all, and selecting "safe video" mode put me into a fully-accelerated hires desktop! So I will probably stay away from it until beta2.)

    Ubuntu is elegant and uncluttered, but it isn't very functional beyond office apps and ethernet connectivity; Not if you take its GUI-centered mission seriously. Ubuntu is morphing into another distro/community that tries to whip desktop users into hackers.
  • Linux (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 31, 2006 @10:06AM (#15817317)
    I bought a Mac and stopped worrying about this ages ago.

    When is Linux going to "be ready"?

    I dunno but I got a ton of work to do and I haven't got time for the pain.

  • Re:Sounds Swell... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Millenniumman (924859) on Monday July 31, 2006 @10:07AM (#15817323)
    You have to actually restart GNOME, not just logout. I am under the impression, with the "login" screen on, GNOME is running.

      I searched for my question and found "edit the xorg config file, and some syntax tips. I googled the location of the config file, but didn't find anything. I knew that /etc was where preferences are stored, so I just cd/ls-ed. As for the sudo thing, I am used to being able to authenticate when I save.

    I shouldn't have to do anything but pick a resolution from a list. Things like this should just work. A good OS doesn't require reading a manual for every little thing.

    If I was using Gentoo, or making my own distro, I wouldn't really have a problem. But Ubuntu is supposed to be easy to use. Not something that people should have to hire someone to set up.

    And thanks to all the moderators who modded me troll for pointing out a legitimate problem.
  • Re:Shuttleworth (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 31, 2006 @10:27AM (#15817465)
    "I wonder of Gates knows what giving feels like."

    Say what you will about Microsoft.
    Bill, on the other hand, knows pretty damn well what giving feels like, arguably more so than any one else does. Take a Look [wikipedia.org]

    I don't know about you, but screw the "OS community", quite frankly, I'd think global health, education, and global development to be much more worthwhile causes. But then again, who cares about the helping people in need, who cares about starvation desiese and illiteracy, as long as your OS is free and open, and spiffy, right?
  • Re:Shuttleworth (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Monday July 31, 2006 @10:39AM (#15817545)
    I don't know about you, but screw the "OS community", quite frankly, I'd think global health, education, and global development to be much more worthwhile causes. But then again, who cares about the helping people in need, who cares about starvation desiese and illiteracy, as long as your OS is free and open, and spiffy, right?

    It is commendable that Gates is making all of those charitable donations to alleviate hunger and poverty and disease. Nobody can fault him and his foundation on that. However, it will never solve the real problem keeping those people and countries in poverty.

    What the third-world really needs is investment in infrastructure, industry, educational institutions, etc., so that they can become self-sufficient. As long as they are dependent on subsidies from the U.N. or other countries or the Gates foundation, they will always be in poverty. What's the old adage? Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.

    Unless there is real investment, whether through Gate's foundation or other sources in business that can provide jobs, and a market for their output, there will always be poverty and disease in those countries. If you want to alleviate world suffering, ultimately, you are going to have to give people in the rest of the world the means to support themself, not just a handout.
  • Re:Linux desktop (Score:3, Insightful)

    by just_another_sean (919159) on Monday July 31, 2006 @10:46AM (#15817588) Homepage Journal
    Ah it's Monday and I can't be bothered to sit and discuss each of your points. But one thing I will say...

    Linux columnists like to talk about how Linux is ready for the desktop, but it's just not.

    Regardless of what your experience has been, regardless of what columnists say the fact is I run Ubuntu on three computers in my house, for me, my wife and my kids. And my mother uses it too.

    And out of those four machines I am the only user who knows "what a Linux is". The most insightful comment I got from my clueless but happy Linux users was from my daughter... "Oooh, it looks kind of like Aunt Mysha's Mac!".

    "Ready for the desktop" [lxer.com] is a relative statement anyway, but me, I think Ubuntu is ready. More telling still; so does my mom. :-)
  • Re:QA at Ubuntu? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by babbling (952366) on Monday July 31, 2006 @11:00AM (#15817700)
    They want to, but can't. Hardware manufacturers aren't cooperating by releasing hardware specifications or driver source code. As a user who values your ability to use wireless in Ubuntu, this means that you have a responsibility to buy products where the manufacturer is cooperating.

    This support isn't going to happen any other way. If you think it's simple to write drivers for your black-box wireless card, go for it! I think you'll find that it's not. We get the cooperation of all hardware manufacturers by only buying from those that cooperate. The ball is in your court.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 31, 2006 @11:19AM (#15817858)
    Mod me "Troll" if you must, but at least hear me out... there are other Linux distributions besides Ubuntu... I don't know about you, but I'd really like to hear more about the smaller distributions that actually come up with innovative ideas... it's not like Ubuntu's anything special if you look at it from a purely technical perspective, it's basically just a re-compiled Debian with a shiny orange GNOME desktop... the only thing I see that really stands out is that it's backed by a space astronaut, besides that there's not that much there.
  • Re:Matter of scale (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pollardito (781263) on Monday July 31, 2006 @01:19PM (#15818949)
    the support community grows at roughly the same rate as the developer community
    the point that the grandparent was trying to make is that the support community doesn't grow as fast as the end-user community. the first people onto these projects are people that are really knowledgeable with computers and often are people that are looking for a "project" that they can pitch in on. as the software goes more and more mainstream and becomes easier to use, the community adds in lots more non-technical people who both need more support themselves and probably won't be able to provide support for others. that's the tipping point from "linux is for hobbyists" to "linux is easy enough for my mom to use", because adding a hobbyist potentially grows your support community and adding an uninformed user just increases the support load

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay

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