Ubuntu founder urges Linux desktop to rival Apple

Shuttleworth also cites need for new business models to fund free software

Ubuntu Linux Founder Mark Shuttleworth urged development of a Linux desktop to rival what Apple has done in this space and aired a vision of software changing the world.

Shuttleworth, speaking at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON) in the US, on Tuesday evening, also urged development of a new revenue model to fund free software and set his sights on a services-based mechanism for this. He also stressed the importance of interoperability with Windows.

Shuttleworth, of Canonical, emphasized development of the Linux desktop as well as mobile development.

"Can we go right past Apple in the user experience we deliver," Shuttleworth asked the audience. There is a profound challenge in the Linux desktop during the next two years to build this type of desktop.

"Certainly on the desktop experience we need to shoot beyond the Mac, but I think it's equally relevant [in] the mobile space," said Shuttleworth.

"The challenge for us is to figure out how to deliver something which is crisp and clean," without sacrificing the community process, he said.

An audience member mentioned issues that would emerge in developing an Apple-like desktop in the free software world.

"It would be hard to do from a free software point of view, I think, because so many people have so many different opinions," said Brad Cavanagh, data reduction software engineer at the Joint Astronomy Centre.

"That's not to say you can't get good things out of open source. Obviously, you can but it's going to be tough," Cavanagh.

Shuttleworth cited the need for newer business models, beyond advertising for free software.

"We had the Web for quite a long time before we figured out how [to do] ad-funded Web businesses," said Shuttleworth. But he said he did not see how advertising could fund Web-based applications and free software applications. He instead noted an emerging emphasis on services, calling services the engine for funding investments in free software.

"I think advertising works very well in the search case, but I don't think it's the sort of final solution in terms of business models to drive investment in free software," Shuttleworth said. "A more general view of services is required."

There will be tremendous innovation and experimentation with services, he said.

The free software world is in a quest for a complementary economic model. "When we look back at this era, we'll be looking at economics," as much as factors such as technology, Shuttleworth said.

Technology, he said, provides the opportunities to drive economic change, create wealth, and change society. "The way we run our lives today, software determines more and more of it," Shuttleworth said.

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