The future of Ubuntu revealed

LXF: On the topic of being opinionated, with Unity and the community as a whole - there was a split. Do you think that what happened with Gnome 3, Gnome Shell and Unity was partly a result of your desire to be more opinionated about the interface and to have more control? That's not to sound negative, but you had a vision that you wanted to implement…

JS: I think that's absolutely part of it. It's unfortunate how things played out - things turned into a split, and we simply seemed to be unable to come to an arrangement to keep the communities together. I think it's easier for a community to move forward with a driving vision, and in general that's how Ubuntu works.

It's an effective community, and it is a relatively cohesive, goal-orientated community, but when there are different goals it becomes difficult to hold things together, and we found at an individual level there were different goals with what was happening with Gnome 3 and what we felt Ubuntu needed.

LXF: And do you hope in the next few years you might see other distributions picking up Ubuntu's work on the desktop and helping with the burden of that?

JS: I don't know if contributions will flow back in terms of code - we've always measured contributions beyond just code - documentation, mentoring new users, etc - and so if those other projects in time influence us in terms of design and best practice, that's an equally valid contribution.

LXF: Do you run the company as a whole on open source software and Ubuntu, or are there systems where you can't?

JS: We run the whole company on Ubuntu. This is a side annecdote, but we've just moved office. In the old office, at the entry there was a hand-scanner run by a Windows machine, and we hated it. We had to have a Windows licence! And there's no hand-scanner here, so now we have Windows licences for testing, but not as a piece of our infrastructure.

And our software infrastructure, it's largely open source. We use OpenERP for our financial system. We do use some proprietary cloud-based services; we use, Google Apps for Calendar Sync, etc. We're not anti-proprietary software. But in terms of the software we run ourselves, it's open source. We have an internal OpenStack cloud that anybody can get access to and spin up any workloads they want.

LXF: Wow, so if people want to build some software, they can just use it?

JS: Yeah, and it's generated a lot of innovation in the company, and given people that agility to move quickly. Somebody will have an idea about how to do some automated testing, they can try it out and if it's successful, they can get it deployed through our normal procedures.

LXF: On Canonical's finances, how is your drive to profitability going?

JS: We're very comfortable with where we are. Our revenue is growing at a healthy pace. We don't talk about our numbers publically, being a privately-held company.

But we continue to grow, and are seeing interest in Ubuntu grow in the enterprise, particularly in emerging workloads and cloud environments, at the desktop level, and in the device space driven by the upswing in mobile devices and convergence of platforms.

That line between desktops down to phones is getting blurred, and Ubuntu as a platform can move elegantly up and down that.