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01.22.10

Thoughts on Canonical’s Approach to Non-Free (Non-Libre) Software

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, IBM, Red Hat, Ubuntu at 3:23 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Insights into the ongoing debate about Canonical (or Ubuntu) and the proprietary software it considers offering

Bradley Kuhn from the SFLC shares an update to his post about Debian, saying that “Canonical is now encouraging Ubuntu users to use proprietary software from IBM.” Kuhn is probably referring to announcements like this one (there is more than one from the Lotus event). It is a tricky subject we have only alluded to in the daily links and it seems rather benign because as Kuhn puts it, “Red Hat history repeats itself.”

Either way, this is a factor to be aware of. Chris Smart entertains a debate about this over at Linux Magazine:

Proprietary Software and Linux: Good, Bad or Somewhere in Between?

Canonical is looking into selling proprietary software like Adobe’s Photoshop and Apple’s iTunes within its distribution, Ubuntu. This would undoubtedly be helpful for certain end users wanting to switch to Linux, but is it good for free software in the long run?

From the Var Guy:

Ubuntu: More Apps, Lower Support Costs?

[...]

Meanwhile, the Ubuntu community has launched a survey to determine which additional applications users would like to see easily installed on Ubuntu.

To Canonical’s credit, they do consult the community. From Ubuntu Forums for example:

We are trying to gather preferences for the apps that users would like to see in upcoming version of Ubuntu. While we all believe in the power of open source applications we are also very keen that users should get to choose the software they want to use. There are some great apps that aren’t yet available to Ubuntu users and Canonical would like to know the priority that users would like to see them. This list is indicative not definitive and we would love to also read your suggestions in the free text box.

Whatever people’s opinion on the subject might be, let’s remember that freedom — not market share — ought to be the goal.

“FSF did some anti-Apple campaigns too. Personally I worry more about Apple because they have user loyalty; Microsoft doesn’t.”

Bradley M. Kuhn (SFLC)

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4 Comments

  1. Dennis Murczak said,

    January 22, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Gravatar

    A somewhat delicate topic – on the one hand, support for proprietary software attracts users/customers who rely on closed vendor specific technologies, on the other hand its use should be strongly discouraged because it damages everyone except the vendor in the long run, especially when the technology becomes dominant.

    My idea would be that Canonical makes the offering a separate service for paying customers, with a disclaimer that support for the software can only be obtained from the respective vendors. Mandriva does something similar in their commercial offerings IIRC.

  2. NotZed said,

    January 22, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Gravatar

    “We are trying to gather preferences for the apps that users would like to see in upcoming version of Ubuntu. ”

    Asking isn’t always a good thing. The loudest voices are not necessarily the most representative. Actually they are probably the loudest because they know they are not.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Yes, exactly my sentiments. Groklaw and others reckon there’s gaming of Ubuntu being done that way (e.g. Mono).

  3. your_friend said,

    January 23, 2010 at 12:19 am

    Gravatar

    Software that has owners is always one downturn or buyout away from extinction or ownership by a company like Microsoft. Given a choice, users should always go for the free software alternative. From both a practical and moral standpoint, proprietary software is always bad for the user.

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