07.02.11

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The Decline of Ubuntu in the News

Posted in GNU/Linux, Ubuntu at 7:42 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Ubuntu is no longer making waves, just ripples

Cold water

Summary: Analysis of a likely scenario where Ubuntu loses its leadership among GNU/Linux distributions for the desktop

Occasionally we write about the role of Android in Linux popularisation (because it is probably the fastest-growing Linux-powered platform), yet rarely do we cover Ubuntu anymore. One of our readers, Roy, suggested that we should sometimes deviate from our focus on external threats to GNU/Linux and perhaps focus on advocacy, not just in the daily links. He did have a point and now that we do not have many posts to write (simply because there are not as many distinct threats as there used to be, at least not many that we have not tackled already), it might be reasonable to issue a commentary about Ubuntu.

“A lot of people already know Ubuntu, so they need not go to Distrowatch and browse that particular site for additional information about Ubuntu.”Well, many people are quick to point out that in Distrowatch rankings for particular time spans Ubuntu is now second or third. This has not happened in years. That site, however, is not a very valid prominence indicator as it counts a level or curiosity or exploration. A lot of people already know Ubuntu, so they need not go to Distrowatch and browse that particular site for additional information about Ubuntu. Rather, they want to know what else is out there and how it is unique (or what the homepage is and what reviewers day) Going by trends, however, it is possible to argue that Distrowatch shows decreased interest in Ubuntu.

Headlines from the news matching “ubuntu” are being accumulated by my mail client several times per day. Some of these headlines are not about Ubuntu the distribution but about cuisine and basketball for example (long story, not relevant to this post). But about 80% of the results are about the operating system, so it dominates the name. Last week I compared June of 2011 with June of 2010. In terms of news volume matching “ubuntu” there was a major decline this year. Last year there was about 50% more coverage (after merging similar headlines), This can validate suspicion that, assuming not much has changed in Google’s algorithms/spiders, among journalists there is decreased interest in Ubuntu. Is it because of Google’s Android and the Chrome family of products (these are Linux based)? It would be easy to guess but not to tell for sure. For all we know, Ubuntu has not suffered any notable departures in months and backlash against Unity has quieted down. The main question remains then, why has Ubuntu gone so quiet? And also, is this an opportunity to rival distributions such as Mageia? Your thoughts on this are welcome.

In actual news about Ubuntu, Canonical goes deeper into the whole ‘cloud’ (Fog Computing) venture, as shown in the following:

  • Open Source Dropbox Killer Arrives: Ubuntu One Files

    I have never been a big fan of cloud computing, due to the risk of losing ownership of my data. But, I do like the concept of a ‘copy’ of my data (not the only copy of my data) available on cloud so that I can share it with others or access it from where ever I want. Honestly speaking with 16GB Nexus S, 32GB Samsung Galaxy Tab and a 360GB Ubuntu Dell Mini along with a portable 500GB HDD, I don’t have to worry about availability of my data, I carry my it with me, just the way I carry my credit cards with me.

  • Success Of Ubuntu One Service Depends On Features It Offers

    The Ubuntu Promise states that it will always remain free. Canonical’s Business Model is to build a set of Cloud Services around the Ubuntu OS which by itself is offered free. The cloud services will be free upto a certain limit after which a nominal fee is charged for the service that helps sustain the company that will keep on investing in Ubuntu to make it bigger and better.

    Canonical’s Business Model relies heavily on the success of their Cloud Services. The company offered its first cloud service in 2009 by the name of Ubuntu One as a File Sync and Storage service free with a limit of 2GB. They made steady progress debuting new features and extending the service to smartphones as well by publishing iPhone and Android apps.

Ubuntu itself (desktop side) is working on its own changes, irrespective of the upstream:

Would it not have been safer for Ubuntu to just stick with classic GNOME or KDE? Mark Shuttleworth is trying to “Cross the Chasm”, but instead he is falling into it by disappointing some of the same geeks who recommended Ubuntu to friends, peers, family, and colleagues. I am going to try Unity this month and judge for myself.

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