View Full Version : What is the "ecosystem around the platform?"

April 28th, 2007, 03:17 AM
Mark Shuttleworth apparently plans for Canonical to profit from the "ecosystem around the platform." (http://solosmalltech.com/?p=110)

Does anyone know what that means? It sounds kind of like he has plans to charge for software that will become a more or less integral part of Ubuntu, but that doesn't seem consistent with the mission. Does anyone else have a guess?

You can listen to the conversation at OpenBusiness (http://www.openbusiness.cc/2007/04/24/interview-with-mark-shuttleworth-how-to-make-a-business-out-of-free-software/)

Ender Black
April 28th, 2007, 03:56 AM
I am sure someone will correct me if I am wrong, but the ecosystem Mr Shuttleworth is speaking about is the corporate support for a enterprise edition of Ubuntu. Meaning that with paid subscription an enterprise would receive primary support and customized builds and etc. Isn't that Red Hat's business model?

It makes certain sense... like a movie theater losing money on the tickets for the films but reaping the profit with the snack bar.

Tundro Walker
April 28th, 2007, 04:02 AM
It means he probably has investments in things that will grow if Linux grows as a popular OS.

EG: hardware, OS support/consulting, etc.

Let's look at it this way. Anyone can learn English for free. But, that doesn't make you a great writer. So, you may need to pay someone to teach you to write well. Likewise, just because English is free doesn't mean every book written in it is free. You have to pay for great novels, technical manuals, etc.

Now, if folks had to first pay a company a licensing fee to use English as a language, for speaking or writing, it wouldn't be very popular. Why? Because there's other languages out there that are free. Things involving English would be in less demand, because folks don't want to pay for something if they can get it for free.

So, we take that business model to Operating Systems. Microsoft charges tons of money for folks just to use their OS on their computer. And, since they got into the market at the right time, under-cut Apple in cost and availablity, etc, etc, they exploded as the king of desktop OS'.

So, how do you topple the king? Well, there are hurdles. You can try to make your OS cheaper. But, how cheap must it be for folks to switch? And there's other hurdles. Folks don't want to switch if they don't have the comfort of going back if they don't like your OS. They want the comfort of knowing their work on their old OS will transfer over to the new OS you're trying to sell. Etc, etc.

What Mark Shuttleworth and Canonical are trying to do with Ubuntu is what NetScape did with Web Browsers. You basically offer your product for free, because you don't plan on profitting off selling it. Instead, you plan on profitting off everything else around that free product that nautrally becomes more in demand as people move to your free product. Consumers start using Ubuntu, they'll probably demand more Linux-compatible hardware. They'll need Linux/Ubuntu support (just in case). They may want to hire consultants that can build software apps specifically to work with a Linux architecture in a corporation (which is kinda wishful thinking so far, but who knows...maybe in the future).

So, the idea behind Ubuntu is to commodotize the Operating Systems (IE: make them free and easy), essentially removing that as a profit-making aspect in computers, thus lowering Microsoft's grasp on the Desktop market. Or, at least forcing MS to compete at the same level (after all, once NetScape offered up a free web-browser, MS basically gave away IE in order to compete. NetScape's idea was much the same as Mark Shuttleworth's...to profit off things your free product create demand for. In NetScape's case, they were going to profit off email services, web hosting, etc ... I think...don't quote me on that.)

It's actually quite good, because it's about the only way you can topple such an entrenched product like Windows w/o coming up with some super-uber killer app. Mark saw an opportunity with Linux, since it's open-source based, and has been developed for a long time. He's using Canonical to provide some (in my opinion) much needed corporate-style direction to the foundation of the distro while still having the hordes of free-lancing folks doing things in Linux because they can, or because they like to experiment, etc. It's the best of both worlds for users, because they have the security of a supported distro, with good community and scheduled updates/upgrades, but we also still benefit from the overall Linux community that develops new things in other distros (because if something really is good, it'll eventually become main-stream, like web-browsers, music players, etc).

So, if you're a betting man (or at least a person who dabbles in the stock-market), you might want to invest in some hardware companies that focus on Linux support. You may be surprised and find you're a millionaire in the next 10 years.

To answer another root question. I do think Mark Shuttleworth's goal is heart-felt. He wants to keep sling-shotting the technological world forward by helping to remove it from the grip of a Monopoly. But, there's no rules against him making a profit on the side while doing so. I'm just worried that power corrupts. And, if Ubuntu does eventually take off like wild-fire, will Mark lead Canonical to be the next Microsoft. I'm reminded of that South Park episode where they community unites to tear down Wal-Mart. Then they shop at the local store down the street, which becomes so popular that it becomes another Wal-Mart...which they burn down. I'm hoping Mark simply wants to use Canonical to even the playing field by making OS' competetive again, and not monopolize the industry. Because once an industry is monopolized, history shows progress decreases while prices increase...EG: Rockefeller oil, Carnegie steel, Gates' Microsoft (*cough*)...

One of the best leverage points they're using is providing Ubuntu to developing countries, using any language possible, and "one laptop per child", using refurbished laptops with LINUX installed. If you can get a whole generation to learn Linux from the start, it'll weaken the foundation Windows sits on. I think it's pretty interesting, and I really hope for the good of it all, but, again, it's hard to see if there's any ulterior motives.