Canonical has come under some heavy criticism in the past couple of weeks with its controversial decision to include Amazon shopping results in the Ubuntu Dash search results. I have to admit, when I first read of the news I was also enraged with a certain amount of anger and honestly couldn’t believe that our beloved Ubuntu had fallen victim to the commercial trap. The more I thought about the issue the more accepting I become of the concept. Allow me to delve a little deeper in to my thoughts and explain to you what I mean.
Love it or hate it, Microsoft Windows is the industry standard desktop operating system. Yet we can’t ignore the fact that Windows’ recent status as the industry standard may seem less relevant in 2012 than its 90’s dominance, due to Apple’s current grab on IT industry power. Despite Microsoft and Apple being strong competition, both companies share one thing in common and how they achieved their accepted position in the industry-Commercial software.
A hot topic of discussion for opponents of ‘Linux on the desktop’ is how it will never achieve industry acceptance in the same way as Windows and Mac OS. I agree, it probably won’t. At least not on the same mass scale of their competition. But that’s ok, because it really is not where I would want Linux to evolve and I’m sure that’s not what Linus Torvalds would expect Linux to do either. But commercial software companies have a different take on it.
Ubuntu and Linux based operating systems have always had setbacks in achieving mainstream acceptance in the desktop operating system sector. It’s a very shaded gray area of the reasons for this. But one thing is for certain, Ubuntu and Linux has the technological capability to compete with both Windows and Mac OS on a global desktop scale. Canonical understand and accept that for Ubuntu to continue to evolve and break new ground and for Linux to be accepted as a serious contender in the commercial software sector, Ubuntu must somehow migrate in to the commercial IT industry. Whether the choice to include Amazon Shopping results in the operating system is the right way to go about it is yet to be decided. Only the eventual user acceptance can decide that. At best, the concept can work and become a success for Canonical, Amazon and the users of Ubuntu and Linux. Or the whole scenario could turn awry and leave Canonical licking its wounds for turning Ubuntu into an evil commercial monster from the once innocent and friendly operating system that new and veteran Linux users appreciated worldwide. Whilst dragging Linux as an embarrassment to the industry not far behind.
Perhaps the only way to enter the sector and earn respect from the wider community is to go down the commercial route. Perhaps the world is just not ready for a completely free, open-source and commercial free operating system. Microsoft went commercial, Apple went commercial and they’ve both become very important and profitable companies to the IT industry. The road ahead for Canonical and Ubuntu is clouded at best. There doesn’t seem to be any clear path at the moment. It’s all new territory, really. If Canonical continue to guide Ubuntu down this path, I only hope that Mark Shuttleworth and Canonical keep the users and developers informed at all times and of all the companies intentions. Because when decisions begin to be made without the consultation of both the users and developers, is where Ubuntu becomes just another commercial standardized desktop operating system that can’t be trusted. And the end-users begin to feel betrayed.
With respect to Canonical, they seem to have listened to the community so far. A majority wanted nothing to do with the Amazon shopping results inclusion. Therefore, Ubuntu developers have included an opt-out switch for the results. Let’s just hope that all decisions made regardless of the company in charge of making those decisions, are in the best interests of the user and the Linux kernel.