What are you Ubuntu, a Platform or a Product?

For today’s video blog I’m tackling the ideas behind Ubuntu the platform and Ubuntu the product, courtesy of Ayatana Mailing List. Nobody doesn’t like good Ayatana! Basically I dig into the problems between a One and Only vision and the more flexible, but harder to do, platform model of design.

With visual aids thanks to Inkscape!

Video Problems: Go directly to the video on blip.tv here and download the source ogv here.

What are your thoughts?

16 thoughts on “What are you Ubuntu, a Platform or a Product?

  1. @GrammarN – Thanks for the spelling correction, I actually paused for 5 minutes trying to work that one out. The spell checker can be quite useless sometimes. I wish it has text-to-voice so you could check.

  2. I think Ubuntu is a product, and should be, and that is a good thing. In my view, Linux is a platform.

  3. @bloodorangeonline – Yes Linux is a platform, but so is everything outside of the kernel like Gnu, FDo, libc, &c. It depends which platform is important to your project I guess. For us making desktops it’s got to be the FreeDesktop platform and Gnome/KDE.

  4. Ubuntu should be a platform, because existing platforms have failed to achieve a relevant desktop market share. It is platforms, not products, that are leading this.

  5. Martin,

    I think the way out of the trap is to find a way to have FOSS project culture interact more directly with OEM product development culture. I see Canonical as trying to be a bridge between the two worlds. (And in that analogy I guess I would be the troll that lives under their pragmatic construction)

    The way I interpret things is that the real drivers for the code silo approach is the OEM culture. I don’t think anyone can dispute that OEM interest in linux solutions is at an all time high (we could talk for hours you and I on how to praise and blame for that.) And I think (I do not know) that Canonical is under some amount of pressure from OEM partners (especially ARM partners) to deliver a shippable product.

    I don’t think the external Ubuntu community can bring as much pressure on Canonical to make sure the innovation is engineered deep into the platform. Money talks. I think in some ways Canonical is stuck between a rock and a hard place on how the can execute its plan to innovate and meet the requirements of its OEM partners.

    I think the only way out is to find ways for projects to open up avenues of discussion with OEM interests to take the burden off of vendors like Canonical to speak for the project interests as well as their business interests. I just don’t know how to make that happen.


  6. @doctormo: I agree that these other bits are platforms, but your post is asking what is Ubuntu.

  7. The problem with menu bar you mention in the beginning is not a problem of product vs. platform, but rather a problem of Canonical making bad design choices and not presenting any arguments as to why.

    The frustration you mentioned, at least for me, comes from the fact that the issue (global menu bar behavior) is being outright ignored, and it seems again like a decision Mark Shuttleworth made and is sticking to it, despite many valid arguments against such behavior, even coming from his own employees. It is that ignorance that frustrates me the most and I’m starting to question the benevolence of Marks “dictatorship”.

  8. Ubuntu is supposed to be Linux for Human Beings, ie. average users… not Linux for coders who want a platform to build upon. So the answer to your question is rather obvious.

    To address the wider issue.. I think there is going to be a lot of unrest in the community in the next few years, for the simple reason that Ubuntu is no longer aimed at the people who have been championing it all these years. While Ubuntu always claimed to be the distro for the average person, frankly it always failed to achieve this, and it was mostly used by power users and geeks. Now that Ubuntu is maturing to the point that it appeals to the average joe on the street it now longer appeals to the power users of the world. You can’t visit a Unity or Gnome Shell blog post on a tech site without reading many comments of people disgusted with the idea that FLOSS coders seem intent on dumbing down computers so they are aimed at stupid people. I find it especially ironic on Ubuntu sites like OMG! because surely these people moaning about Ubuntu getting dumbed down were aware that the Ubuntu goal from day one was always to make a distro that even dumb people could use.

    But to reiterate, no Ubuntu is not a platform, a platform is for developers, not for “human beings” ie. average users.

  9. @Jimbo – Have you ever installed Ubuntu desktop for your office? or a community center? If not, then you don’t really understand what it means to use Ubuntu as a platform. If you’ve never tried to develop a project with a shoestring budget and a two developers but serve millions of users; then you can’t really understand the frustration.

    In short, this post is about exploring the ideas of the conflict, not for concluding it with naive sentiments.

  10. Doctormo, you asked a question and I answered it succinctly with my opinion. I do not understand why that is a naive sentiment, other than the fact I used the Ubuntu moto to answer the question.

    I’m not being flippant here, that moto really does answer your question. Linux for human beings means a distro which is a polished product suitable for an end user. All that stuff with diagrams showing building blocks coming off of Ubuntu is all fluff. Its nice that it exists, but its fluff none the less.

    Ubuntu does not, and should not, represent this huge overarching software project that touches many other projects; it should represent a single core product which has brand awareness to the average person on the street, and the only way to achieve that is creating that monolithic block you described in your diagram.

    Are there ways we can have that monolith and still keep the platform guys happy? Probably. Is it worth discussing ways to do that? Sure. But the question of whether Ubuntu is a platform or a product is pretty simple to answer IMO.

  11. @Jimbo – I was trying to explain to you that your singular world view is basic in it’s analysis, it doesn’t account for distribution and it doesn’t account for stability in the project’s overall ability to serve users. Hence naive.

    Coincidentally the same kind of view that pushes towards singular thinking, forgets about various features that are incredibly important to individuals, but are not seen to be importance to ‘everyone'(tm) and so aren’t invested in from the top down. If it wasn’t for Edubunu, we probably wouldn’t have LTSP support at all, UbuntuStudio does a good job of pushing sound drivers and configurations forwards as well as wacom support, if it wasn’t for Debian, we wouldn’t have hardly anything at all because we’d only have access to what’s installed by default and the software center might as well not exist.

  12. I actually just used this distinction on a mailing list. We need to figure out how to articulate this in a positive way, along with making things clearer. I do think it’s an important distinction to make though.

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