Google Distro Trends, 2009/04/23

Just mentioned it in the comments of my previous post, but it’s worth a more public reminder…

Google Distro Trends, 2009/04/23

That’s what I would describe as “the hopes and dreams of a generation” (of Software Freedom lovers), and is the result of fantastic product definition, branding, genuine user excitement, years of incredible — and largely unsung — work of thousands of Debian developers (not to mention all the upstreams)… and a pretty substantial X factor. 😉

Update: Whenever I talk about this chart in presentations, I always follow up with another chart which puts that incredible rising line in context: Ubuntu vs. Firefox. Interestingly, that chart is looking far less impressive today than it was last year. Which is great news… The rise and rise of Ubuntu is catching up to the star power of Firefox! Wow!

Google Firefox Trends, 2009/04/23

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53 Responses to Google Distro Trends, 2009/04/23

  1. Dhruva Sagar says:

    This was inevitable ;). Very nice to know!

  2. neo says:

    Google search trends don’t really mean much. These words are used outside the context of linux as well. How about some real numbers?

  3. Jeff Waugh says:

    @neo: Seriously? Come on. 🙂

    For a start, the only word among those terms commonly used outside the context of Linux distributions and/or computing is… you guessed it: “fedora”. So if your assumption and cynicism about the numbers were valid, surely Fedora would be doing a lot better than it is?

    (Also, the proportions are almost exactly the case when you limit the comparison to the computing category in Google’s more advanced trends interface… which seems to confirm my long-held suspicion that Google were already doing some autocategorisation of the basic queries anyway.)

  4. . says:

    Just so you know A-F from the picture:
    A – Ubuntu Security Notice – courier vulnerability
    B – Ubuntu Security Notice – openoffice.org2-amd64, openoffice.org2 vulnerabilities
    C – Open-Xchange and Ubuntu woo small business
    D – Ubuntu update for kernel
    E – Dell Goes Ubuntu, Again
    F – Ubuntu 7.04 to 8.10 Benchmarks: Is Ubuntu Getting Slower?
    Whatever that tells us.
    Ubuntu is a great operating system and obviously has a lot going for it, but sometimes people get silly with the evidence they produce.

  5. Jeff Waugh says:

    Sure, there’s definitely a limit to what can be interpreted through Google Trends stats, but the relevance (and sheer triviality) of the news items selected suggest to me that at the very least, these numbers do represent computing-related searches.

    Otherwise we’d be seeing news about Ubuntu free trade cola, the Ubuntu spirit and its impact on the South African elections, and a shocking exposé of the link between felt hats and autism.


  6. anonymous says:

    Woohoo! I agree with you 100% Jeff, we’re CRUSHING RedHat and Suse. It is an Ubuntu world! Long live Ubuntu! Someday, hopefully soon, there won’t even be companies like Red Hat and Suse. One can dream!

  7. Jeff Waugh says:

    @anonymous: Hmm, no, I’m pretty sure that would put us in incredibly high contrast black-and-white disagreement, dude… I would not wish any ill towards Red Hat at all.

    Naw… Novellies, of course I love you too. 😉

  8. Vadi says:

    +1 to Ubuntu for making Linux & technologies (developed by other distros & people) accessible for the usual computer user.

  9. Jeff Waugh says:

    @anonymous: … and an additional followup…

    If it weren’t for “companies like Red Hat and [Novell]” — and Canonical, along with countless others — Linux wouldn’t be where it is today, GNOME wouldn’t be where it is today, Ubuntu wouldn’t be where it is today, and no one would be that crucial conduit between hackers, fanboys and the rest of humanity.

    (But then, I suspect there was a touch of anti-Ubuntu sarcasm in the anonymous poster’s comment.)

  10. Jef Spaleta says:

    If you take Google trends as a measure of brand strength…here is how I read that graph. Ubuntu reached its brand saturation point at the beginning of 2007. Outside of the impulsive events the long term trend is essentially flat across 2008. Once the impulse from 9.04 passes it will be interesting to see if that saturation trend continues.

    So if this does indicated a significant brand value..the real question is has Canonical figured out how to unlock the value of the brand to sustain Ubuntu development?

    The red hat curve is an interesting comparison. Red hat just reported something like 40,000 new paying customers for its enterprise products.

    Red Hat clearly has brand value..among people who are willing to pay for support services…a target audience Google trends may not capture well. How’s Canonical fairing with that critical minority? How’s Canonical doing with regard to tapping that brand value and actually getting anyone to pay for services which generate revenue that keeps the lights on for the Ubuntu infrastructure and the core developers? Anyone care to go on record on the number of paying landscape customers? Anyone reading this a paying landscape customer?


  11. peter.isles says:

    why did you not include debian? you mentioned it, but didn’t include it. naughty!

  12. Vadi says:

    I don’t think Canonical is doing too well on the money-generating department. Assuming the situation is the same though when they go under, I’d probably be going back to Windows – I hear 7 is making decent steps – as anything inside the Ubuntu umbrella will be going down and nothing outside of it (opensuse, fedora) work for me. :/

  13. mike says:

    In the long term Arch Linux will get them all, look how steady it’s spreading is.


  14. Senko says:

    Relatedly, I think this trend is interesting:|redhat|fedora|suse|opensuse|debian%2Clinux&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all&sort=1

    The usage of the “Linux” brand seems to go down, and people more and more refer to a specific distro name. My anecdotal evidence confirms this (it’s “are you running fedora”, or “i’m going to install ubuntu” even from linux-newbies – the only time I hear them mention linux is in “linux vs windows” talks and when referring to “linux user”s.

    You’d think server-side is different story (since Linux is already a long-standing brand there), but:|rhel|%22redhat+server%22|%22red+hat+server%22|%22debian+server%22%2C%22linux+server%22&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all&sort=1

  15. Jeff Waugh says:

    @mike: Looks awfully impressive when put in context, too! 😉

  16. Faidon Liambotis says:

    FWIW, Debian is *exactly* just SUSE/Fedora. The correlation between the three is quite surprising…

  17. anonymous says:

    Jeff, anonymous here. Why are you comparing Ubuntu’s success (in terms of Google Trends) with those of Red Hat and Suse, if *not* to make the point that Ubuntu is crushing them?

    Couldn’t your post have been a positive message by simply showing the great strides Ubuntu has made? By simply showing the increasing google-trended-ness of Ubuntu? Wouldn’t *that* be more in the spirit of “Ubuntu”?

    Ask yourself, in one year’s time, would you rather see Ubuntu’s “lead” over Red Hat and Suse in Google-trend-ed-ness be larger… or smaller. From your postings, I would guess larger.

    I would offer that a more healthy approach would be to fixate on the growth of linux in general, and on the growth of Ubuntu in general. Not comparisons to ourselves. It’s petty.

  18. Congratulations, you have proven that Ubuntu is good at marketing.

    How’s the engineering going?


    Hell, Mandriva (operating on a budget that’d buy you, oh, maybe half a shoestring) has done far more interesting things with speeding up boot than Ubuntu 9.04 seems to have managed:

    once Ubuntu takes over the world I hope it’ll make sure to keep feeding the people who write all the code in it…

    (and if you’re wondering why most of the comments are sour grapes-ish: comment #17 nails it exactly. If you didn’t want this, you shouldn’t have put other distros on the graph.)

  19. ethana2 says:

    Which linux should I use!? There’s so many! It’s so confusing!


  20. Ciprian Mustiata says:

    Why are you on Planet Gnome blogs?

    Even considering that Ubuntu will overwhelm all other distros what does it mean? Is better? Does it really relevant adding for instance a new shell for GNOME 3? At least as they were a desktop distro. Or does it mean that will create a new security framework to Linux?

    More than 90% of what Ubuntu is developed is right now is what the competitors are put in trends. GNOME is mostly a Novell, RH and Sun (now Oracle) work. Linux kernel development is not a feature of Ubuntu developers also. Most frameworks like PolicyKit, PulseAudio, … you name it are contributed more by Nokia (as they contribute directly to Qt or to Gtk even from 2006) than from Ubuntu.

    This means how much marketed is Ubuntu and less about how good it is. Do Windows is better than OS X or Linux because of market share?

    I would prefer this blog item to be about GNOME additions, which to consist in more than notifications and Alacarte in 5 years of Ubuntu for all upstream distributions. This will show more about sharing in Ubuntu than saying how great they are!

    My biggest afraid is this: if Google (with SOC), RedHat and Novell will cease development of desktop Linux, we will remain mostly with a stoned desktop. With no Compiz, no FPsot, PolicyKit, SELinux or AppArmor, a good uptodate kernel, a new GNOME (Gnome Shell is developed by RH), packagekit, banshee, cairo (Cairo was start by a RH developper and was lately continued with Novell in making XGL/Compiz foundations).

  21. linux says:

    this is ridiculous, i use specific linux distribution means that i don’t go for searching it in google…

  22. Jeff Waugh says:

    @Adam Williamson: I’m genuinely surprised that your (seemingly regular forays into) sour grapes haven’t sweetened with your shift in employment!

    I think there’s probably a bit too much knee-jerk competitive analysis going on here… I’m far less interested in the relative successes of the distros within the market than what might lead to further success for everyone — beyond our current audience — and knowing that we now have what is essentially a standard-bearer for Linux as a viable mass-market platform (yeah, I’m mostly thinking about touchy-feely desktop stuff here).

    Ultimately I think Ubuntu’s success is a tide which raises all boats.

    Plus, I have been very outspoken in my support for Red Hat, their ongoing contributions to everything which makes Linux viable for users (including their massive but almost market-invisible desktop work)… so I think all the angst is probably a bit over the top.

    Except perhaps from SuSE/Novell supporters and ex-Mandriva employees. 😉

    (Despite being along somewhat similarly angsty lines, Jef’s comment was vastly more insightful and thought-provoking than the “grumble-grumble-Ubuntu-grumble” comments — more of that, please!)

  23. Jeff Waugh says:

    @Ciprian Mustiata: It doesn’t take much research to figure out the answer to your first question. 🙂

  24. Jeff Waugh says:

    @Adam Williamson: Hmm, funny… I actually think Canonical are pretty shithouse when it comes to honest-to-goodness marketing. They’ve cruised along on word-of-mouth and community noise for a long time… not sure if that will sustain them forever, particularly as they transition towards sustainability. (Turns out this reflects much of what Jef was saying!)

  25. Jeff Waugh says:

    @linux: Odd, I’m always using Google to find out information about whatever platform I’m working with… pretty sure that’s true for a heck of a lot of other people out there, too. 🙂

  26. Jeff: oh, nothing changes me.

    As I said right at the end of my comment, echoing the previous one: if you’re not interested in comparisons with other distributions, don’t put them on the frickin’ graph! I wouldn’t have minded if you’d just printed the Ubuntu graph. That would be fine.

    “Community noise” is what I meant when I talked about marketing; Ubuntu’s very good at that.

  27. Jeff Waugh says:

    @Adam Williamson: I am interested in comparisons, but not of the angsty “why are you pooh-poohing us” kind, because that’s not why it was done, nor why it’s interesting. In fact, those kinds of responses are red flags which indicate “not interested in learning from others” — obviously not at all the point. 🙂

    Community noise isn’t marketing. But yes, they make a lot of noise. That is just one of the things which others (who are willing) could learn from…

  28. “Community noise isn’t marketing”

    As someone who spent several years laboriously working to improve ‘community noise’ with the partial intention of improving the profile of a product, I strongly beg to differ on that point.

  29. Jef Spaleta says:


    Don’t assume criticism is angst. I think there is a real fault line internally in how Canonical has built Ubuntu up which puts Canonical’s business interests and the momentum in the Ubuntu brand on divergent courses and not into a strong feedback loop.
    The the future of Ubuntu as a coherent project depends explicitly on Canonical’s business. If its easy to find Ubuntu users, but it hard to find people paying for Canonical’s services..that is a divergent situation. If people do not value the Canonical branded services…that’s a really big problem for the future of Ubuntu even if people value the Ubuntu products themselves. It’s worth talking about. I’m not going to stop talking about it. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.

    I’m not saying the sky is falling or that its built on a house of cards…what I am saying is there needs to be a much better baseline understanding of the importance of Canonical’s business model(s) to keep Ubuntu going into the future. That understanding isn’t going to happen without more transparency with Ubuntu’s own advocacy sub-community.

    I think people by and large don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth and don’t ask the hard questions because they don’t want to look ungrateful. But the hard questions remain none-the-less.If you and others need to ascribe ill-will when those questions are asked…I can deal with that. But seriously, these are exactly the sort of questions financial shareholders ask. If Canonical were public, they’d have to be much more transparent with the financial shareholders than they currently are. The real question is, are the Ubuntu community members a new type of “shareholder” in the sense that they’ve put personal effort,time and goodwill into building the value of the Ubuntu brand. Not money, but other less tangible things. It could be argued that Ubuntu is a success as a brand because of those intangibles, and yet there’s no framework by which to communicate the overall health of the ecosystem to those shareholders.

    My challenage remains. Who out there reading this right now is paying Canonical for support services of any kind? Who out there reading this right now knows someone in their LoCo who is paying Canonical for support services right now? Who out there reading this right now knows someone whom they’ve introduced Ubuntu to and then that person ended up purchasing Canonical support services? If ubuntu is spreading primarily through word-of-mouth…but the value of Canonical support services aren’t spreading word-of-mouth at some sort of proportional but finite rate along with the spread of Ubuntu…that’s a huge problem.


  30. Jeff Waugh says:

    @Jef: Yours was one of the comments I did not regard as angsty. These are good questions, well posed — indeed, they bugged me while at Canonical and after I left.

  31. Jeff Waugh says:

    @Adam Williamson: In that case, you’re just confusing promotion with marketing. 🙂

  32. Vadim P. says:

    I don’t see Jef’s ‘challenges’ to nobody (because who but Canonical has the power to respond to them – and I wouldn’t consider answering personal challenges on a blog on a net a responsibility of the today’s business) are helpful.

  33. neo says:

    “For a start, the only word among those terms commonly used outside the context of Linux distributions and/or computing is… you guessed it: “fedora”. So if your assumption and cynicism about the numbers were valid, surely Fedora would be doing a lot better than it is?”

    Dude. Practically every single word in your query is used in other contexts. These trends don’t mean much if anything really. Google said so themselves

  34. Jeff Waugh says:

    @neo: The proportions (if not the numbers) are the same even if you limit the context to “computing” in the advanced trends interface.

    Please describe the other contexts in which the full range of ORed searches would be used… there just aren’t any, and that’s why the news stories and spikes are so obviously related to the implied context.

    This is a pretty difficult argument to push if you don’t like the numbers… perhaps you should find something questionable about them which is actually based in reality. 🙂

  35. Ciprian Mustiata says:

    Sorry. I wasn’t to appear a personal attack. My wanting was to say that as I was read as a part of Gnome-Planet blogs, to get more about GNOME and it’s planet and less about trends which are fully commercial. My apology for every word that was inapropate.

    In fact I use Ubuntu as my main distro (can you believe that!?) but this is because of one reason: it have the most commercial applications works on it without being a EL linux. But looking to what Ubuntu create, they do more on tweaking a GNOME than really contribute to it upstream.

    This is why I had seen your post inappropriate and probably is one of the most popular also 🙂

  36. neo says:

    “Please describe the other contexts in which the full range of ORed searches would be used… there just aren’t any, and that’s why the news stories and spikes are so obviously related to the implied context.”

    Ubuntu is the only distribution were the constant stream of security updates are aggregated in the news section for example. There are so many different reasons why those numbers are extremely fuzzy. Google itself has published the details on why you shouldn’t rely on search trends a while back when they close Zeitgeist because people kept abusing it and claiming completely incorrect things based on the graphs there . Google it up and read it carefully. The same things apply here as well. Maybe you do believe that Jesus Chris is less popular than Ubuntu according to such graphs. Maybe a residue faith to a previous employer can cause that.

  37. James Henstridge says:

    @neo: I agree that the word Ubuntu is used for things other than the OS. For instance, when I was in South Africa in 2005 I remember seeing a billboard for an investment bank that used the word in their slogan.

    That said, the search volume for the yellow line is highly correlated with Ubuntu the operating system’s rise in popularity. In fact, it starts at the point where Canonical announced Ubuntu’s existance. If it was a common everyday word, then you’d expect to see hits from before that point.

  38. Jeff Waugh says:

    @neo: Dude, the only argument I’m making (with you) is that these charts do reflect the relative and relevant search volumes of the distros.

    All the evidence suggests so, trivial security update news and all (because the highlighted news reflects the relevance of the term comparison, not because I care about the news volume itself — you’ll note that I never mentioned or reflected on it).

    When you can actually point to evidence that these particular charts (especially when compared with the topic-limited variants in the advanced trends interface) have been molested by irrelevant, out-of-context data, let me know.

    In the meantime, remember: they’re only search trends! 🙂

  39. jeff: fine, call it promotion. I don’t read a lot of management books, I tend to use fairly fuzzy terminology. I think we both know what I mean, though. 🙂

  40. neo says:

    “In the meantime, remember: they’re only search trends! 🙂 ”

    Exactly. What do they prove? Certainly not your grandiose claim of software freedom being spread. Instead I see this

    I am just sad

  41. Jeff Waugh says:

    @neo: “the hopes and dreams of a generation”… all I’ve offered about the search trends is this: They indicate that one of our brethren is crossing the chasm (which is ultimately good for everyone — within and beyond the walls of our community). No point getting snippy about it.

    It’s a travesty man… Ubuntu clearly documents and describes the limitations of proprietary drivers which may enable a broader audience to adopt and enjoy Software Freedom… after which they’re more likely to make better hardware purchasing decisions in the future… which in turn, along with the growth of Ubuntu, is likely to have a sizeable enough impact on the hardware market such that vendors take notice and produce FLOSS drivers. Yup, sure sounds pretty fucking sad to me.

    A final thought for you:

    “Only the impotent are pure.”Gough Whitlam

  42. Alberto says:

    Curiously enought that most of the queries about Ubuntu comes from Jakarta, Italy, Czech Republic and Russia… so Ubuntu is spreading beyond the developed countries

  43. Jef Spaleta says:


    That firefox versus Ubuntu graph is interesting. Being a trained skeptic, here’s the first set of questions it brings up in my head. Why are people searching google for the term firefox? Are most firefox queries done by firefox users? Are the being done by people looking to install firefox? What would happen if firefox was pre-installed and was the default browser would the google queries involving the firefox term go down significantly? How often do users of firefox query google for firefox versus how often non-users of firefox query google about firefox?

    I use firefox. I don’t make a habit of googling for it. Do you? Do you make it a habit of googling for information about firefox, while actively using it on a daily basis?

    Now replace firefox with Ubuntu in my questions and see if you come up with the same sort of intuition with regard to how to explain the querying habits. Google trends are difficult to understand without having some sort of mental model that explains querying habits. If you don’t have confidence in same mental model to explain the query habits for both the firefox and Ubuntu terms…they might not be good comparisons even though the trends are similar.


  44. Jeff Waugh says:

    @Jef: My thoughts about this continue to dwell on difference between “acquire” and “support”…

    I grok your scepticism about users querying for their products, but I do tend to find myself using them all the time as query components… For instance, looking for a plugin (for Firefox), web development info (for Firefox), the solution to a hardware problem (for Ubuntu) or application availability (for Ubuntu).

    But I suspect that Firefox probably has a larger proportion of acquisition-oriented searches, while Ubuntu probably has a larger proportion of support-oriented searches.

    … and it’s the proportion of “acquire” vs. “support” that (I feel) is likely to have the most impact on those trends in the future.

  45. Jef Spaleta says:


    You search for firefox plugins on google? You don’t use firefox’s internal addon tools which take you directly to Hmm. That’s interesting. I would have thought you and I would be representative of the same segment of the userbase… the 0.1% technically proficient tail of the population.

    I never trust my own usage patterns as being representative of mainstream usage. I should do a little test, ask my wife to search for and install a firefox plugin to do a specific task and see how she does.

    But you bring up a good point about “support” which goes right back to the heart of the matter. Because the Ubuntu community “support” is so strong, that undercuts the value of the “support” that Canonical is selling to fund Ubuntu as a project. Is Ubuntu as a project itself a bubble economy created by an injection of venture capital from Shuttleworth, where its own popularity is eroding fundamental financial considerations that drive the business model?

    Here again the comparison for firefox is interesting. There’s no doubt that the Google search revenue is a very large financial driver for Mozilla and thus firefox development. But more interestingly for firefox, that revenue is directly tied with usage of firefox..there is a natural coupling between expanded use and the revenue associated with the Google partnership and community action doesn’t really cut into that feedback loop at all. Is that same dynamic working out with Canonical? Or is the broad availability of Ubuntu community “support” undercutting the feedback loop that would power support revenue for Canonical.

    The very thing that makes Ubuntu’s brand trend in Google Trends so compelling, could be the very same thing that is disrupting Canonical’s ability to generate revenue… easy access to community “support.”

    I really wish Canonical would hurry up and poop out a service offering from the Ubunet/UbuntuOne project work they are doing internally. If its anything like what I suspect it is, it’s going to get Canonical away out of the trap of competing with community for “support” and will let Canonical compete directly with other web services businesses. They have a better chance of competing there than competing directly with its own Ubuntu community as a “support” provider. A Better chance..but not a good one.


  46. Jeff Waugh says:

    @Jef: I suppose my tendency to use Google is part force of habit, part desire to find answers from a wider information source. 🙂 That said, I’ve witnessed the same thing watching other people… often enough because they don’t know the “more direct” resource exists (“Add/Remove Applications” in Ubuntu or “Addons” in Firefox).

    But this brings us back to where our opinions are more likely to diverge: Open Source business strategy. 🙂

    I think Red Hat created the environment for a competitor to enter and “steal” their immense visibility and “Red Hat == Linux” status. Mark understood and very astutely described this market gap from the very beginning (before “Ubuntu” and “Canonical”).

    You keep talking about Canonical struggling to make money… only five years after the very first release of Ubuntu, and only three years after the very first (business-viable) Long Term Support release. These things take time. (Plus you’re solely focusing on support revenue, but that’s a completely different conversation.)

    Red Hat ceded mass-awareness and product-preference-by-osmosis — which it totally owned at the time — when it adopted the RHEL strategy, particularly because that strategy was not immediately teamed with a viable answer to the community, technologist or early adopter markets. Fedora is almost there, but I still think it gets pooh-poohed to a certain extent by Red Hat.

    I think the “competition with community support” concern is a furphy… as Marten Mickos says, “time vs. money”, and people sure buy MySQL support!

    So, as it will take time for a five year old company to establish itself in the mind of corporate buyers, it will also take time for Red Hat’s previous advantages to diminish.

  47. Jef Spaleta says:


    Mysql.. that’s an interesting comparison. Google trends mysql and ubuntu.

    Mysql is trending down! The comparison you are trying to draw doesn’t hold up. Mysql is making money..its google trend is downward…it doesn’t support the argument you are trying to make.


  48. Jeff Waugh says:

    I don’t think it disagrees with my suggestion, however.

    Ubuntu searches have been on the rise (though the recent levelling out is intriguing) during the period of its existence, which makes sense considering what we understand (independently of Google Trends) of Ubuntu’s rise in popularity and general freshness. Consider that, as a distribution, it represents an amazing breadth of searchable properties, where MySQL might not — I bet there’s a whole bunch of people searching for both!

    Finally, my points about the market are not based on Google Trends lines. You are starting to conflate a few things there, and I don’t think it helps to describe what the search trends mean (after all, I don’t think there are “arguments” to be held about the trends, just suggestions).

    Check out what happens when you add “Linux” to that query, by the way. Very interesting.

  49. Very interesting graphs.

    Another one that might be interesting :

    While “linux” goes down in trends, “ubuntu” is getting close. This is somehow a combination of your graph showing all major distros with Senko’s graph (comment #15) showing all distros compared to “linux”.

  50. Jef Spaleta says:


    Just a little historic comparison. If you start counting Red Hat as beginning in 1995 when the corporate entity “Red Hat Software” was created. It took Red Hat about 6 years to get to its first profitable quarter in 2001. It’s really unfortunate that Google trends didn’t exist for that 6 year span. There’s no way to really support the thesis that Red Hat gave up the brand awareness when RHL was discontinued that you think Google trends is suggesting Ubuntu earned in the last 4 years. And certainly the 2004 Google trends data for redhat and linux don’t make a strong case that “redhat” == “linux” in whatever sense Google trends calculates brand value. Your thesis may be valid, but the Google Trends data doesn’t support it…there’s no data set that does. We just don’t have the data record that extends back far enough to capture the critical period prior to 2004 to understand the rise and fall the red hat as a brand in the Google Trend sense.

    Anyways, the history is a little messy because of the RHT IPO and the number of acquisitions Red Hat did leading up to 2001. The Canonical history for the first 5 years is vastly different in that there have been no large scale expenses in the form of corporate acquisitions and there’s been no IPO. If anything Canonical should have an easier time of it than Red Hat did building a business assuming your thesis is right and Red Hat gave up valuable brand perception after doing the hard work to build it. Canonical should have a really easy time capitalizing on that, especially with no major acquisitions to drive expenses up on the balance sheets. 6 years. That’s what it took Red Hat. Canonical should be able to hit profitability in the same timeframe surely. I guess we will know in a year.

    But lets look a little deeper than that. When Red Hat introduced its rhn service in 2001, it took less than three years for rhn to have 1 million systems subscribed to it according to the historical record:
    This July will mark the 2 year mark for Canonical’s landscape service. Care to make a friendly wager as to whether Canonical will reach the 1 million registered system mark for landscape in the same amount of time it took in Red Hat’s rhn? If it happens I’ll buy you a beer and teach you how to curl (just get your ass to our end of the season bonspiel at my curling club..I can’t afford your plane ticket.) Wait hold on, I’ll teach you how to curl _then_ I’ll buy you a beer.

    I’d love to compare Canonical’s training services program to Red Hat’s…but Canonical is just really getting started on that. In about 3 years Red Hat had more than 6,000 certified RHCEs…if you believe the press clipping:
    “Started in January 1999, RHCE is a performance-based training and certification program and de facto standard Linux certification, with over 11,800 RHCE exams taken and 6,600 RHCEs certified. RHCE is the top-rated IT certification overall for quality, chosen number one in multiple categories including overall quality of program, education, and exams. (Certification Magazine/Fairfield Research, Jan. 2002)”

    Three years to become top rated cert program in multiple categories. Tick-tock/Tick-tock. I guess Canonical formally begane their Ubuntu professional training last year right?

    Then there’s Canonical’s ISV services…the partner repository and associated packaging services. The service, introduced for dapper and which was suppose to “hit the ground running” with the release of Hardy. It would be very ungentlemanly of me to go into detail on how badly that is fairing as as service offering by counting the number of applications in the partner repository for any release of Ubuntu LTS or not. I might need to use two hands..maybe.

    Oh wait what about channel partners? Well what about channel partners?,289142,sid96_gci1310488,00.html
    that’s from last year. Anything significantly changed since then? Canonical’s had a year have they developed strong partner relationships that actually feed revenue back to Canonical? No idea…complete lack of transparency there. If anything Turn Key Linux is probably positioned to be a better integrator partner for VARs than Canonical is, inside the larger Ubuntu ecosystem..and that’s pretty troubling to think about as Turn Key Linux doesn’t directly support ecosystem in the same way Canonical does.

    So what does that leave…well I guess OEM services. Absolutely no transparency there to talk about. Where the direct to user support services have a publicly archived pricing model..the OEM services doesn’t. The most transparency I have to go on is a statement in Ubuntu forums basically saying that the Dell pre-installs are most likely going to be a wash in terms of revenue. Okay then. System76 is finally offering Canonical support contracts to end-users for server purchases starting this month i think…but ZaReason a competing OEM isn’t. And its not clear that either one of those very Ubuntu friendly OEMs are contracting with Canonical for OEM level services. The existing OEM projects in Launchpad seem to target netbooks exclusively. Which is great and all…except latest Q1 sales reports sort of indicate the netbook market softening.
    Good news about the Revo Asus nettop pc though, hopefully Canonical got paid doing some integration work for that and Asus didn’t just slap Ubuntu on it on their own.


  51. Jef Spaleta says:


    Correct me if I’m wrong but never worked for Red Hat, but you seem willing to editorialize their previous business decisions just fine in spite of that fact (comment 47). As I’ve never worked for Canonical nor Red Hat, I’m equality qualified to talk about both. If you don’t feel comfortable editorializing Canonical’s performance to date..don’t…that’s not anything’s not like the current Canonical employees like talking about it in detail either. But don’t try to speak to Red Hat’s business decisions either unless you are prepared to do that comparison.


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