Canonical CEO: Ubuntu Tablet OS Will Battle Android, iOS

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InfoWorld: What makes Ubuntu more suitable for cloud deployments than other Linux platforms?

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Silber: We've been working on cloud technology from early on. We were quite early to the game of recognizing the value of cloud. You can very quickly deploy a cloud that has Ubuntu as the host OS, the infrastructure OS. Public clouds are also being built on Ubuntu. HP is developing a public cloud and that's built on Ubuntu. In terms of the guest images that run in a cloud, Ubuntu is very well-suited for that, again because we've optimized it to some extent to work in the cloud. But also we can address the economics of the cloud in a way that Red Hat can't. So if you're going to spin up a machine for two weeks -- the cloud is perfect for these bursts, this dynamic allocation of resources -- you don't want to buy a license for it.

InfoWorld: What's the user base size for Ubuntu?

Silber: We conservatively estimate it at at least 20 million.

InfoWorld: Linux for the most part has failed to make much headway on the desktop. Do you think the game is over for Linux on the desktop or is there still a chance for Linux to contend or even dominate there or compete with Windows?

Silber: I don't think it's over. The spotlight on that battle will move to other form factors, more mobile form factors, and we've all seen the predictions of PC sales and where the growth in PC sales are. But I think the desktop per se, the desktop and laptop world, remains a valuable and vital business area. And I don't write Linux or Ubuntu off at all. We ship tens of millions of machines with OEM partners that have Ubuntu preinstalled every year. Granted, not all of those stay Ubuntu. We know that some get pirated Windows on them, but there is just continually increasing interest in a non-Windows desktop environment.

InfoWorld: A release or two ago, Ubuntu ditched the traditional Gnome UI for a new custom-made interface called Unity. Predictably, perhaps, Canonical has caught a lot of flack for it. What is Canonical's take on this? Are you still committed to Unity?

Silber: The short answer is we're absolutely committed to Unity. It is continuing to evolve. Some of the complaints about it are things that we'll address, some of the complaints about it are things that we're taking as a design decision that people don't like.

InfoWorld: So what are people complaining about?

Silber: The tenor of the complaints has changed. When we first came out with it the major problem was that it was different, which is a big stumbling block, and I don't mean to make light of that. That's an important thing, change. People's relation with their computer is a very personal thing, and you get very attached to the way you do things and change is hard. So the first release that included Unity, the bulk of the issues were struggling with change.

Now, as we've moved on and as the product's gotten better, there are still complaints about it, and there are areas where it doesn't work smoothly for somebody's particular use case. As an example, one of the areas that we're working on for the upcoming release is around multiple monitors. There's a very simple scenario where you have a laptop and an external monitor plugged in, but there's a whole range of more complex scenarios where people work at home with two or three monitors spread out. We haven't yet fully nailed that whole experience, to be able to scale up to six monitors down to one.

InfoWorld: What are the benefits of Unity? What are the main reasons to stick with it?

Silber: It's a more natural and better interface paradigm. Our testing of it shows that people learn it more quickly, that they enjoy it more often, that it actually gets out of the way. It lets you focus on the task at hand and melds into the background when you don't want to deal with the operating system. It lets you deal with the applications.

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