A Vision Becomes Reality

After a long period of waiting Ubuntu Phone will hit the market in March 2015 – finally. With this step Canonical cements Ubuntu’s position as the most innovative Linux distribution. From Snappy to Ubuntu Phone – Canonical really drives innovation in the Linux world. There are still many geeky naysayers in the market who have nothing better to do than to sit on their ivory-tower and to sabotage the relevance of Linux by expressing cynic criticism and supporting or even causing ideologically driven fragmention (look at Debian). But the amount of Ubuntu aficionados is constantly growing and watching Canonical’s vision of convergence materializing is a huge triumph for the open source world. So let us celebrate the freedom of software and the great outlook to Ubuntu’s amazing future with Ubuntu Phone:

Becoming relevant in the mobile market means travelling on a long and winding road – but hey – where Linux servers have been 15 years ago and where are we today?

Most important: The relevance of Ubuntu Phone is not limited to see it as a phone OS only. Ubuntu Phone will soon be representing a full-blown, desktop-like computing experience for emerging markets where a mobile device might represent the only computer users will ever own in their whole life-time. It is time for the notorious naysayers to acknowledge Canonical’s stand for a better (free) IT world and start to support the bold vision of device convergence.

Why Ubuntu Will Prevail?

PCs (and now also phones and tablets) have caused a revolution in information technology. But the PC market is still in its infancy when we compare it e. g. with the invention of the telephone and book printing. Who still knows all the leading car manufacturers of the late 19th and very early 20th century? Most are gone. The same might happen with software companies. It required more than 30 years until the car industry got really revolutionized (by Henry Ford’s mass production). I believe that we are now witnesses of a similarly important shift in the IT industry. Open source related business models will widely replace the old fashioned, proprietary business models (e. g. represented by Microsoft and Apple).

A Global Transformation

There is no doubt, IT technologies have a huge impact on the economy, the politics and and our life-style. Only the invention of book-printing caused a comparable radical shift in our civilization. The desperate moves of autocratic political leaders (Erdogan, Putin) to suppress the impact of the Internet on the political information/education process of web-surfers represents the last resort of a backwards directed perception of the world. Luckily this is a dying species and won’t prevent the further transformation how we humans will create, exchange and consume information and how we will organize our work and private life. Basically we are all blessed being part of this thrilling revolutionary process which hasn’t ended yet – it just has started to show its full potential.

Google and the Real Existing Socialism/Communism

The Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti coined this quote:
“What you are the world is. And without your transformation, there can be no transformation of the world.”
The failure of the real existing socialism/communism was probably not that the idea of socialism or communism was fundamentally wrong, the way how this idea was applied/realized by the polical elite was wrong. The birth defect of socialism/communism is that humans have no “built-in” control to always operate coming from integrity and ethic values. If the political caste in the socialist/communist countries would have had integrity in mind (realizing that transformation doesn’t exist outside yourself) and would not have abused the political concepts of socialism/communism to form intolerant ideologies and suppressive systems the course of history would have been different.

In this context Google’s slogan “Don’t be evil” plays an important role. A company like Google uses open source technologies built by thousands of contributing developers to create an information technology empire with access to information which often even your life-partner might not be aware of (that it exists). Having access to such information requires that a company (like Google) develops an ethical codex how to respect/protect your privacy (data) and operates its business inside the boundaries of this ethical codex. That is especially important considering that Google is standing on the shoulders of open source technologies and that the manpower and heart-blood which developers put into these technologies are not meant to get abused for scenarios which will remind us to the approach of many socialist/communist systems where a basically constructive concept got abused to create suppression and destruction.

The Imperative for Canonical

The same imperative applies to Canonical, the sponsoring company behind Ubuntu. A significant portion of Ubuntu is build by community members. These community members do not want to see their work getting abused for a business model which doesn’t correlate with the – somehow diffuse – values and expectations in the open source community. The uproar after the introduction of the Amazon shopping lens in Ubuntu is a good example of about what I am speaking here.

It is clear that Canonical requires to find and/or develop a business model which allows the company to break-even. In captalism profitability is essential. Without profitability no long-term liquidity exists and without liquidity every party ends one day – doesn’t matter how amazing this party is. It is obvious that Canonical did not always find the best balance between its interest to monetize on the popularity of Ubuntu and the sometimes different or diverging interests in the Ubuntu supporting open source community. But recent decisions of Canonical are signalling that Canonical honors the concerns of the Ubuntu community and is acting in a more sensible way than it happened sometimes in the past.

Ubuntu Is the Best Shot We Have

The Ubuntu community and Canonical have achieved a great success already. But the process of evolution in the IT world has just started. We all have no idea how IT will look alike in hundred years and how much our human civilization and our life will be influenced by this process. And probably we will still see more revolutions – who knows? For most of us the massive, quick market adoption of modern mobile devices (after the launch of the iPhone) was a sort of revolution which has clearly the potential to wipe away the market supremacy of companies like Microsoft in the same way how the PC (and Microsoft) did it more than 30 years ago with IBM.

Now I am coming to the point: It is obvious that the corporate culture and business model of companies like Microsoft (and to a similar extend also of Apple) represents an obstacle to embrace change, openess and freedom. A company like Microsoft is not able to create a vision which is inspiring developers and users. Microsoft has become the new IBM, dull and boring – but even worse, being unable to innovate. Nokia’s adoption of Android speaks a clear language. These are signs of a dramatic shift in the IT landscape where Linux based operating systems and applications are taking over the world. The PC did not replace IBM’s mainframes. During the next years the Linux eco-system will also not replace the Windows desktop and related Windows applications in the business world. But in the consumer world Microsoft and in an increasing manner also Apple will face a stiff competition coming from the Linux based eco-systems. Emerging markets will get absorbed nearly completely by open sourced based solutions. In a couple of years the majority of computer users will use a Linux operated device.

Google utilized Linux in a clever form (Android, Chrome OS) for breaking into the home turf of Microsoft and Apple. Android is the trojan horse of the Linux world which is paving the way for huge Linux eco-systems which will outnumber Microsoft and Apple. That is obvious and inevitable. But what this has to do with Ubuntu? Google’s business model is based on monetizing data not on creating an operating system and applications. So everything what Google is doing is more or less dictated by collecting, analyzing and utilizing data. What doesn’t fit into this pattern has no right to exist in the Google universe. But operating systems are too important for being under the control of a company with the business model of Google. Google had/has its historical role to crack Microsoft’s supremacy but that is not the end of the story. The IT world needs open source stewards who are stepping into the room which Google has opened up with Android and by defeating Microsoft (in a Blitz-Krieg). These stewards have to develop and provide a professional eco-system with a great quality of the OS and apps but with less impact to the privacy of users. If Google sticks to “don’t be evil” the success story of Google will continue. Apple’s relevance might decline soon (too much wallet garden, not enough innovation to preserve the nimbus Steve Jobs had created). In the best case scenario Microsoft will become an agile follower (by widely adopting Linux and Mac OSX for application development) and will shift into the direction of a service provider (remember IBM?). If Microsoft decides to stick solely with Windows things can get worse only. Microsoft’s decision to market its own hardware was/is an epic failure which was the best possible invitation for hardware OEM’s to embrace Linux. This room can be used by Ubuntu (and will be used).

Mark Shuttleworth (founder of Canonical) detected already years ago the unique historical chance to establish a professional but free Linux based operating system in the market. Ubuntu is much more than a Unity shell based OS on top of Gnome and the Linux kernel. Ubuntu is a universe with high quality depositories and great flavors (Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Server etc.). It is a great achievement to convert the often rough user experience you get with Debian into the smooth user experience Ubuntu is providing since many years precisely like a clock-work. Ubuntu is perfectly positioned to fill out a major part of the room Android has opened up globally. The platform convergence concept is a game changer. Sure Microsoft and Apple are working on the same goal. But time has changed. Microsoft and Apple are like the Erdogans and Putins in the IT world (I do not mean that defamatory, neither for the politicians nor the companies). Their perspective is primarily protective – focused to preserve their (market) power. They do not realize that the world has changed or they are ignoring it. Younger generations of developers and users want nothing more than freedom and to participate (by sharing). This requires a special climate (you can’t order or dictate that). Nobody likes the restriction of the flow of information and of freedom. An open source community is offering freedom and room for sharing and other forms of participation. Development in the open source world happens under the constant influence of “natural” selection. Open source development is like evolution. That is the strength of the open source world and the reason why open source will prevail. This development model based on the evolutionary principles of mutation and selection (like try and error) is just superior (on the long run) because the ubiquitous influence (contribution and selection) of the community is a powerful corrective.

The Future of Ubuntu and Canonical

Canonical has a historical chance to evolve like Google, Apple and Microsoft had their chances in the past. But the challenge for Canonical is to balance the financial requirements of capitalism and the related (required) actions with the special nature and sensibility of the open source community. But in this challenge lies a huge chance. If Canonical succeeds (what I believe) then Canonical possesses a key for a constant transformation process of the company which might prevent that Canonical is facing the same fate like that of Microsoft and Apple. Canonical and the Ubuntu community should develop together a codex which defines the Do’s and Dont’s within the Ubuntu universe. That would unleash a lot of reserve power coming from the Ubunty community. The Ubuntu community and Canonical have the chance to establish a business and cooperation model which has the potential to transform the world – bridging open source and freedom with a moderate level of commercial success. What means “moderate”? The open source nature will prevent that Canonical will ever reach a revenue like Microsoft. And that is a good thing because resources are then distributed in a more equal way (who the fu** needs 50 billion dollar?). If the Ubuntu community, Canonical and Mark Shuttleworth can manage this evolutionary process without major failures then they will get their place in IT history like Steve Jobs. The only difference is that Steve Jobs was a creative genius but he was serving the “old values”. We – as members of the Ubuntu community – can create something what will have a global impact on the form how humans will live in the future (and not only how they are using their computer). The subversive and unpredictable power of open source is the natural enemy of control, suppression and manipulation, and a pathway to freedom and fair sharing. Open source stands for equal access to information and resources (for everybody). That has also a political impact. Despite some hiccups which we have seen in the policy and actions of Canonical during the last years I am convinced that Canonical will continue to learn and evolve and that the Ubuntu community will have a huge impact to the future of IT and even beyond.

Ubuntu Gravediggers at Work

A few days ago another Canonical shit story hit the fan. According to some articles – e. g. at Muktware, TechDirt and Ars Technica – Canonical got accused to (ab)use the Ubuntu trademark for trying to shut a website down which was/is criticizing the Ubuntu lenses which are transmitting anonymized user data to 3rd parties (e.g. Amazon) and is providing some instructions to disable these functions in Ubuntu.

These articles are good examples of an irresponsible journalism which seems to be part of a currently popular chivvy at Canonical. It seems to me that there are many people in the Linux community (like a new Spanish Inquisition) who are just waiting for any incident which can get interpreted that Canonical is “evil” and to vent their spleen at Canonical. Muktware e. g. writes:
“…We have seen companies like Apple doing such things but this is the first time a company active in Open Source has gone to such an extent to shut down critics…”
This statement is factually wrong and not based on any factual evidence. FOSS projects like e.g. WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and many more rely on the integrity of their brand perception. In the FOSS world the brand (trademark) is a highly important asset to maintain a distinctive project perception and to generate a revenue stream for re-financing. All these as an example listed FOSS projects are pursuing proactivily violations of their trademarks and have a quite harsh policy (see here). And that is legally and ethically correct and not to criticize. Beside this legitimate attempt to protect the Ubuntu trademark zero evidence can be found that Canonical had or has any intention to stop with this trademark related request any criticism. Publishing such interpretations is fueling oil into the already highly irrational Canonical chivvy. For community members who can’t differentiate the legal status of Pirate Bay from a FOSS project (just expecting everything should be free of copyrights and cost) such articels are highly welcomed to cement the picture of Canonical as the black-sheep of the Linux community.

Bitching about Canonical has become a popular sport in the Linux world. During a long period of time Microsoft was the main enemy of Linux geeks. But now it looks like that Canonical became the main target of most haters in the Linux community. The hatred which is filling Ubuntu related forums and posts is quite scary and reminds me (as a German) to some tendencies during the 3rd Reich. The Linux community gets here the character of an intolerant, prejudical and highly ideologized clique which is repelling more moderate mainstream users.

Factually all this is a storm in the water glass. Disabling the shopping lens cures all privacy related concerns (use WireShark to check it). Disabling the feature takes only a few seconds. This is basically the whole point of fixubuntu.com. But the website owner could have posted his tips in a more informative manner instead of bitching about Canonical.

I wrote on Ubuntube.com already an article where I was criticizing the hostile position of FOSS fundamentalists against Canonical and the inability of Canonical to communicate with the Linux community in a more appropriate and cooperative manner. I further directly criticized the communication style of Canonical which was part of the problem. Therefore I was satisfied that Canonical has shown quickly a more appropriate attempt to deal with the current situation than in the past (in form of an apology from Mark himself).

It needs to be clear to everybody in the Linux community that the popular Canonical chivvy is destructive for Ubuntu and for Linux in general. Ubuntu is the only hope we have to break into the mainstream market. I agree that gaining market share should not be done at huge cost. Having an awareness regarding privacy protection and the freedom of software is imperative. Related criticism is great – so far it is constructive. But such a constructiveness I am missing still too often in the Linux community. Only enjoying cost-free software and blaming manufacturers for their commercial decisions makes no positive difference. There comes a day where each FOSS project needs to cover the cost. For this a revenue stream is required. Canonical is trying hard to find a way to keep the pace of development ongoing but to ensure that one day enough money is coming in to finance the development cost of Ubuntu. Canonical and the Linux community need to find a common ground which is suited to satisfy both camps. Hatred and undifferentiated Ubuntu bitching will ensure only that Linux remains a niche product or becomes a powerful tool of companies like Google and IBM which have enough financial resources to create their own interpretation of Linux dominance (e. g. in the form of Android). Decreasing the success of Ubuntu means for me to decrease at the same time the chances of Linux to be one day a reasonable alternative for the masses to Windows and Mac OSX. But probably the loss of “exclusivity” is one reason of many Linux Geeks to defend nowadays Ubuntu so strongly. But this is grave digging for Ubuntu and probably also for Linux in the form how we are loving it. Imagine that one day Google will decide to put all their power into the development of a Linux based desktop OS (so far Andy Rubin & Co. are not already working on that). Google is quite familiar with Linux as a desktop OS. Then the opportunity for getting a distro like Ubuntu into the mainstream will decline significantly. How “free” such a Linux distro from a company like Google will be I leave to your own imagination.

I am sure that the guys at Canonical are learning their lessons and that they will work hard to find acceptable compromises. We as members of the Linux community should stop the irrational and counter-productive Ubuntu bitching. If you do not like Ubuntu – just chose another distro and resist the temptations to create disrespectful and defamatory communication in the Linux community. If you can provide a constructive contribution together with your criticism I am sure that this is highly appreciated on the side of the Ubuntu community and its sponsor Canonical. If only trash is falling out of your mouth please shut-up for the sake of the Linux community. Journalists and blog authors should remind themselves to their responsibility not to judge on basis of interpretations and prejudice.

More information:
And check the by Richard Stallman compiled complete (and ridiculous) list of ethical Linux distributions (all not listed distros are considered to violate FOSS principles):
Stallman’s Linux recommendations

Bitching About Ubuntu (Unity)

It has become quite popular during the last years to bitch about Ubuntu and to predict the death/decline of Ubuntu. It seems that there is a lot of hatred in the Linux community because Canonical tries to innovate several things without the “permission” of several self-proclaimed Linux guardians. In this short post I want to add my opinion to this discussion.

Different Linux User Groups

Regarding the never ending discussions about the right Linux desktop strategy I see three user groups:

  • The Linux pros
  • The Linux beginners
  • The Linux wannabes

Linux Pros

One of the core strengths of Linux (e. g. Ubuntu) is the command line shell (e. g. Bash). Real Linux pros manage most complex tasks using the shell and automate things with .sh scripts. Working with the shell provides speed, control and efficiency which no other working method can beat. The Bash implementation of Ubuntu works great, so nobody can have a real complaint here. And an Ubuntu server is clearly a true Ubuntu even without any desktop. So for real Linux pros the desktop environment is quite irrelevant and such pros can configure any system (even Unity) to work like a well-lubricated machine.

Check out also this Bash tutorial series.

Linux Beginners

Users switching to Linux are well-set with Unity. Unity is quite matured now, fast and stable. With some tools it is easy to customize so that it allows fast working. Switching from a Gnome 2 structure to Unity is a challenge (I understand that) but with some configuration work Unity is running great and convinces me now (13.10) fully.

If Ubuntu users are complaining that Unity is not providing enough customizability then they have KDE. I worked a lot with Kubuntu and I can report only positive things about it. With some configuration work you can make KDE lean and running blazing fast. I have an old Acer laptop and after a day of configuration work I can do my web-development work (with heavy PHP, Apache and MySQL work) 7 hours non-stop until the battery dies. Considering the features and complexity of KDE this desktop is running amazingly stable. Therefore I can’t see beside Unity and KDE a need for any other mainstream desktop.

Linux Wannabes

So then we have the last group. These users are not skilled enough to use Linux like a pro (only limited shell activity and no detailed system configuration) but they seem to know enough about Linux that they believe they have to “educate” the world how a perfect Linux desktop should look alike. These users rely still heavily on the desktop (so why they don’t use Windows then?) what differentiates them from Linux pros (what they probably believe to be). This group of half-skilled users represents the main group of Ubuntu grumblers/winers. What these people do not realize is that their monotonous Ubuntu criticism is simply a clear demonstration of their limited Linux skills combined with a huge portion of arrogance and opinionatedness.

True Nature Of Open Source

I recommend that all Ubuntu bashers stop to show the world their own limitation regarding skill and maturity and accept that the open source world is driven by constant evolution. We all should give Canonical a fair chance to realize their vision of device convergence. Users who dislike the development of Ubuntu have all freedom to chose alternatives but they shouldn’t use any opportunity to nourish their “ego” by slagging Canonical.

The future will show which desktop and OS concepts have the potential to keep Linux alive and kicking. Fragmentation and animosity inside the Linux community is the last thing we need if we want to see Linux being a successful contender on the mainstream desktop (and mobile devices). Canonical was and still is a great contribution for the Linux world and we all should be grateful that someone has the funds, dedication and balls to develop something like Ubuntu instead of using any opportunity to nag about the direction into which Ubuntu is evolving.

The Relevance of Ubuntu Edge

Parallel to their activities to get Ubuntu Touch ready for the launch on 3rd party devices in 2014 the guys of Canonical have initiated a crowd-funding campaign for developing an Ubuntu Phone reference design, something similar to what Google did with the Nexus devices.

Since the Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona Canonical has been quite successful to generate a solid interest of telecom carriers in Ubuntu Touch. But probably phone manufacturers might still be reluctant to invest significant resources into a new mobile operating system. Ubuntu Edge can play an important role to generate consumer and developer interest and send strong signals to the phone manufacturers to change that. If Canonical can prove with a successful crowd-funding campaign that there is the potential in the market to motivate consumers to invest $ 32 million into the concept of Ubuntu’s device convergence that will send a warning to the phone manufacturers not to ignore Ubuntu Touch. Phone manufacturers hopefully understand that a success of Ubuntu Touch will extend the mobile phone market significantly because many consumers and business users will feel tempted to replace their desktop PC with an Ubuntu operated phone which gets hooked to an HDMI montitor and bluetooth keyboard/mouse. Especially the billions of users without a computer represent a huge market which can get addressed with Ubuntu perfectly (think about language support, deployment cost, OS security, privacy protection, independence).

My prediction is that the world wants Ubuntu Touch. Nobody wants longer proprietary systems like Windows Phone or Blackberry OS. Apple and Google are consolidated in the market but the success of WP 8 and Blackberry OS 10 is still questionable. Ubuntu can step in here and become the number 3 in the market. Fact is that nobody wants to support another OS next to Android and iOS which doesn’t provide freedom. There was a lot of rant and rave at Canonical since the first launch of Unity and technologies like the shopping lens. But at the bottom line everybody has to agree on the fact that Ubuntu is 100% open source. That counts for me. Considering the involvement of Google, Microsoft and Apple into the NSA spying activities it has become even more important that the community of Linux users helps to create a commercial breakthrough for a Linux driven open source operating system to ensure that information technology doesn’t get a hostage of secret services and political interests. So long Canonical allows me to e. g. disable services like the shopping lens I am 100% on the side of Canonical and Ubuntu will remain to be my OS of choice.

Ubuntu Edge

Seen from this perspective supporting Ubuntu Edge is a vote for freedom. Freedom from spying back-doors in proprietary systems (like in Microsoft and Apple operating systems), freedom from the product dictate of telecom carries and freedom from product portfolio strategies of phone manufacturers which are primarily dominated by production and retail logistics and not consumer needs.

Supporting Ubuntu Edge is a great chance for the Linux user community to demonstrate unity instead of fragmentation. And on top of that we will get a great device:

If the Ubuntu Edge crowd-funding campaign will be successful the phone market won’t longer be the same. That is probably the reason why phone manufacturers might be reluctant to support Ubuntu Touch. A success of the Ubuntu Edge campaign will be a demonstration of consumer power and start a movement which will change the structure of industrial production for all time. Having access to an open source phone OS will allow us in a few years to build our own phones. We will be able to purchase bare-bone boards and most other phone parts we will create using 3D-printers or buy those in the electronic parts market. So let us change the future and make Ubuntu Edge a success.

An Open Letter to Mark Shuttleworth – Wayland vs. Mir

Dear Mark, Canonical’s Ubuntu related PR work since 2011 did not reflect the high level of responsibility Canonical has in the Linux world. I am fully aware of the fact that dealing with FOSS communities is not an easy task but what I noticed so far since the introduction of Unity is a long chain of lost opportunities to communicate new Ubuntu projects in a way which would allow FOSS communities to react without flame wars, upset and defection. I am not in a position to judge about the product development decisions Canonical made (only history will tell) but it is obvious that insufficient and inappropriate communication has destroyed a lot of confidence and support which Canonical had created over many years with Ubuntu. A company like Canonical requires a communication style and PR structure which makes sure that product related decisions won’t disrupt community support. If you really care about community support you can’t steer Canonical like Steve Jobs did that with Apple, you need to be in a closer dialog with these communities. The style how Unity was introduced let many Ubuntu users defect to Mint. That is the difference between proprietary and open source software. If a new Windows version sucks (like Windows 8) then users can only stick with older versions (XP or 7) and hope that further updates (e. g. 8.1) will get it right or choose to switch the OS completely (what is a painful process). In the Linux world you switch quite easy to another distro. This competitive environment will let Linux prevail over Windows on the long run.

Communication and the Exodus of Users

I am afraid seeing Canonical stepping into a fatal trap which is part of a vicious circle: Canonical moved in a hasty attempt to Unity without preserving more conservative alternatives for long-term Ubuntu users. As a result many users moved over to Mint. Since Mint is standing on the shoulders of Ubuntu (like Ubuntu is still standing on the shoulders of Debian) I am under the impression that many decisions related to the development of Ubuntu are nowadays nothing else than a defensive reaction to the user exodus for which only Canonical has to overtake responsibility. I personally dislike this kind of fragmentation in the Linux world but that is the way how evolution (selection) works in the FOSS universe. If you can’t keep the users happy, you lose. Trying to defeat the exodus with strategical decisions which make the life of projects like Mint more difficult (e. g. by shortening beta release cycles) are not very well suited to win back defected users. It won’t cure the lack of respect such users believe having experienced from Canonical. You can’t get that way (with strategies) the ghost back into the bottle. If I would be the community manager, PR manager or CEO of Canonical I would apologize for the inappropriate communication and hasty introduction of new products which disrupted for many Ubuntu users the up to version 10.04 widely positive experience with Canonical. I share Canonical’s vision of convergence between different form factors and I highly appreciate the work Canonical is doing to make Linux relevant as a desktop operating system. I am also fully on your side that Linux needs to get more polished and has to attract user groups which are currently not using a Linux based OS. I believe to understand where Unity is heading to and that makes fully sense for me. I can also see that the maturity level of Unity is now good and that all the initial upset with Unity hasn’t longer any factual foundation. So far so good but this is not sufficient to win back lost users. Mark, I expect that you are leading Canonical in a way that there won’t happen again such collateral damage. New products like Unity, shopping lens or a new display server need to get introduced to the FOSS communities in a way which can’t get interpreted as a lack of respect or as a self-centered, disruptive or dangerous approach for other developers. Otherwise you might feel get forced to step into a vicious circle which will have a disastrous effect on Ubuntu. Even as a billionaire you can’t win this OS game without community support.

Are Technical Reasons the Source of Mir?

I am afraid that the decision to develop Mir instead of supporting Wayland is nothing else than a strategical decision to get rid of competitors like Mint which are using Ubuntu as a basis for their distros and to avoid that in the future some bloodsuckers will try to benefit from developments like Ubuntu Touch etc. If that is the case then this is a dangerous strategy which has a risk to fail. In the FOSS world you can keep users only happy with authenticity, appropriate communication, fair cooperation and open partnership, not with creating boundaries. It becomes now visible that many Ubuntu derivatives are not willing to follow the Mir path. So what will happen when Unity ends up as the only distro which is using Mir? Will there be a healthy balance between the efforts to develop and maintain a proprietary display server and the required investment? Will Canonical have the financial success or resources for being able to maintain a growing development department which is primarily working for Canonical’s products and visions (like Google is doing it with Android) without substantial community support? Everybody makes mistakes, even great leaders. But everybody can learn from mistakes and apply corrections. First of all I hope for the sake of Ubuntu that the decision to develop Mir wasn’t a costly mistake and makes technically really sense. Secondly I hope that Canonical will be able to realize when you guys made a mistake (when this becomes obvious for most of us) and that you have the balls to admit that, to collect the sherds, dry the tears and reconcile Canonical with other community developers and market participants. Being dogmatic, self-righteous and stubborn will destroy Ubuntu.

Corporate Identity and Respect

In this context I believe that apologizing e. g. for the inappropriate introduction of Unity and the shopping lens would create a very much different perception of Canonical in the FOSS communities. So long Canonical is not willing to overtake here responsibility and demonstrates respect for defected users every future step of Canonical will be perceived very controversial. Canonical has to realize that respect is crucial and needs to be an essential element of the corporate identity. Only when this lack of respect gets fixed the communicative climate has a chance to return to “normal” and Canonical won’t be seen longer as a danger for FOSS ideals. When you read the recent reaction of Martin Gräßlin then it is obvious that the way how Canonical justifies the Mir project gets perceived as offending. Arguing won’t help, even if Mir would really be a superior project (compared to Wayland). You are dealing here with people who are investing their spare time, enthusiasm and passion to improve Linux. Mark, I expect from you here emotional generosity. Please make sure that Canonical ensures that developers like Martin can make peace with the strategical decisions you made. Please make also sure that your arguments are authentic. IF Mir is just an attempt to get rid of copy cats then you should not argue with technical reasons. There is nothing wrong with declaring that when you invest your money into improving Linux distros you want to have a different level of control. It is not too late to correct unauthentic statements, either by communicating such a project (Mir) in an appropriate manner or by getting in touch with the Wayland developers and create synergies etc.

Unity Has a Bright Future

Finally it is obvious that the focus to Unity leaves less room for Ubuntu derivatives. It is my opinion that this is not a bad thing. Projects like Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Xubuntu etc. should use Debian. If you want Ubuntu getting more successful then focusing to one distro (Unity) is mandatory. Although I am a Kubuntu user (in the process to switch to Unity) I can’t see any point why Canonical should support longer distros which at the end don’t reach the quality and stability level which is required to compete on the desktop successfully with OS X and Windows. If technical reasons are the real motivation behind Mir then we may see here such distros moving to Debian – so far the developer teams get that managed. Seen from my perspective the inflation of desktops is counterproductive for achieving a specific level of quality. Personally speaking I am willing to give up the flexibility which I have with Kubuntu in exchange of a clean, stable, reliable and device-agnostic distro like Unity. As a person who has worked over the last 30 years with many operating systems and has seen many PC trends I believe in the future of Unity. So if Canonical is willing to change its style of communication the community perception of Unity and related technologies should shift soon into a more positive direction.