Some days ago Mark Shuttleworth was quoted in computer world blog, saying that he’ doesn’t think you anyone can make money of the Linux Desktop while he’s probably right with that but it has to be pointed out that Ubuntu was the nail in the coffin of Linux’ desktop business.
I’ve never seen selling shrink-wrapped packages of free software as a workable idea.
An idea was born
In the late 90s and early years of this millennium there were a couple of Linux distributions like Mandrake (now Mandriva) that created the first Linux distribution primarily for home desktop users, while not much of anything worked back then they still had this idea of a business model. A business model that wasn’t producing much of a revenue but at least, they didn’t stop trying. The Linux Desktop was born back then, and people started to realise that there is the possibility that one day people might actually consider using Linux for non-server, or non-scientific tasks.
One who had this vision of a Desktop for everyone, a Linux for human beings was of course South African Entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth. In 2004 he formed canonical, a company to finance, promote and support Free Software and like we all know created Ubuntu Linux, a distribution with the goal to bring Linux to your home based on Debian.
The new kid on the block
So, there was another distro in the wild that no one would care about, so what made Ubuntu as popular as it is today, the most popular Linux distribution?
Marketing, and some good ideas. Using Debian and with it vast repositories of software was one of those good ideas Debian at this point was the epitome of software freedom and Ubuntu inherited this brand along many of its users that liked the idea of a distribution centred around the desktop, me being one of them.
Selling the cow
But the most brilliant move that was made was shipping Ubuntu for free around the world, right at your doorstep. People didn’t have to download the ISO-images, they got a nice looking pair of CDs and they were completely sold to this idea of Linux for humans, for everyone and getting it for free.
What followed was an uproar in the geeky, techy parts of the Internet, people heard about this new kid on the block. Blogs, news sites and forums talked about it, and soon everyone knew about Ubuntu, a new brand was born.
This huge resonance was something that other desktop distribution could not reproduce, perceived as old and boring, without a millionaire behind the scenes paying for the shipping, and offering everything they offered for free. They just could not compete with that.