back to article Canonical's Dell and Lenovo love lets Ubuntu down

You probably didn't notice, but a mini-war has been brewing on the Linux desktop. While Apple, Google, Microsoft and others earn billions claiming ground in the mobile computing gold rush, lesser-known open-source organizations like Canonical, Banshee, and Gnome are fighting over sums as small as $3,000 and which desktop UI will …


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  1. NB


    Linux is not OSX, and on a laptop or desktop machine it certainly isn't iOS. iOs is built for small, embedded devices and comparing it to a desktop OS is just plain fucking stupid. A lot of us don't want a dumbed down appliance OS and to be honest I've found ubuntu's preference and admin tools far superior to anything on windows or macs because they give me the control to get things done without treating me like an idiot. I'm all for making things 'easy' to use but that doesn't mean we should be pandering to the absolute lowest common denominator. That's how you end up with windows and if that happened to ubuntu then I, and many others, would have to find a new distro.

    1. henrydddd


      I agree with you 100 percent. I am running Ubuntu 10.10 on my main computer (home brew). My Ubuntu computer also serves as a file server for 9 computers on my lan. I have found Ubuntu to be far simpler and more stable than any Windows product. The computers/devices on my lan use a variety of operating systems. Everything runs perfectly. I have an Iphone, Ipod touch, several computers with various Windows and Linux products. To me,Ubuntu is the best thing invented since sex.

  2. Change can be good
    Thumb Up

    Very insightful

    I agree with 110% with you Matt

    I think both ZaReason & Canonical have got an objective, straight forward analysis from your article for free. It is an interesting perspective which they must look into.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Change can be good: "I agree with 110% with you, Matt"

      Just a mere 110%? Surely that represents only a very slight level of agreement in today's inflationary times.

      I wouldn't be impressed unless you agreed several thousand percent with him - and even then, I'd have my doubts...

  3. Eugene Crosser

    The value of simplicity is greatly exaggerated

    Come on, the 20% of the population that *really* prefer simplicity is already being milked by apple. Trying to squeeze into this market is futile. But, there is much bigger market - 80% who say that they want the thing to "just work" but in reality love complexity, love an opportunity to play with a sophisticated toy. This effect is proven by the success of Windows. And by housewives preferring washing machines with more knobs than needed to do the laundry. And TV remotes with more buttons than a qwerty keyboard.

    That's why I think the Unity effort is misguided, and so is Matt's advice.

  4. The Alpha Klutz

    There's a problem with all of these unified experiences

    in that none of them talk to each other.

    If your Apple unified experience won't talk to your Microsoft unified experience won't talk to your Canonical unified experience won't talk to your HP unified experience won't talk to your Sony unified experience then what the fuck is the point?

    Vendor lock-in is as always its own worst enemy.

    You won't blame me if I take a back seat on this one until, oooh, say, 20 years time when perhaps we can hope for one big cloud rather than dozens of violently xenophobic ones?

    1. Matt Asay

      Great point

      I actually have argued before that "Ubuntu" could come to mean much more than an OS, and instead describe an open computing experience. This would let Canonical focus on building interoperability between disparate clouds, desktop environments, etc. Actually, its Online Services business unit already is doing this. I'm just not sure there's enough of a desire to move beyond the OS.

  5. Nicolas A.

    Ever heard about JoliCloud ?

    That might be the OS you are looking for :

    Seems very similar to what you describe as expectations anyway.

  6. Sean Baggaley 1
    Thumb Up

    A good assessment of the situation, I think.

    Interesting read.

    I use Apple kit myself these days—I've used pretty much every platform since the Sinclair ZX81, so OS X is just the latest in a long string of operating systems I've worked with—and their holistic design approach really is the best thing about the company. This is how design *should* be.

    Good design isn't rocket science. There are books on it and everything. That Apple has so little effective competition is a searing indictment on their rivals; Apple aren't doing anything that hasn't been written about at tedious length for *decades*.

    If Canonical can find a good hardware company to complement their software, and focus on making the two elements work together seamlessly, I guarantee you they'll be onto a winner. But please—for the love of Codd—let's stop wittering on about individual components like Linux or KDE and such like as if they *matter*. Because they don't. Nobody cares what the hell the shiny magic box runs on, or how it works. The important—the ONLY—thing is that it DOES work. Properly. Seamlessly. Effortlessly. And as transparently to the user as possible.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @SB ...

      completely and precisely correct

  7. Jon 9

    iPad "just works"?????

    I got an iPad a couple of weeks ago. I have to say far from "just works" I find it a rather flakey and unreliable device.

    Applications that you would expect to be rock solid (read safari, mail & itunes) crash on an alarmingly regular basis, even with the latest upgrade.

    I'm glad I paid the right price for it (£0).

  8. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

    Mint (Debian) FTW!

    The Mint team seem to have a far better handle on what users want in terms of the "turn it on and it just works" philosophy, and its Debian variant eliminates all the Ubuntu cruft and keeps the GNOME interface that many seem to prefer to Unity.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Why do they even try

    Any of this asshat companies trying to emulate Apple is like going to Newcastle's Bigg Market in hope of scoring a night with Paris Hilton.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Well, perhaps....

    But who says chasing players such as Apple, Google and Microsoft is particularly sensible or desirable? Why not do exactly what Zareason is doing and make a nice little business that has the further advantage of having business relationships NOT based on stitch-up and ultimate control? E.F. Schumacher applies...

    The beauty of Free Software is that it's not a requirement to assume that a big business model is a prerequisite. Choice works all round, although for big business, choice needs to be a one way street. Where's the fun or satisfaction in that?

  11. Ru


    "That opportunity is relevance in a world where software has been "app-ified" or gone SaaS, and the concept of an isolated desktop computing platform feels prehistoric."

    I'm not sure I wholly understand what you mean by 'app-ified'. Is this some newfangled straightforward interface to some sort of magical App(tm) distribution and update service hosted out in The Cloud(tm) somewhere? I feel positively neolithic. All I've had for the last 10 years or so I've been using linux is this daft 'apt-get' tool, which only provides me with 'software packages' from the 'internet'.

    Oh, and as far as I'm concerned, the notion of an isolated desktop went out the window when DSL became readily available (speaking from a UK-centric point of view, here).

    Nothing is new. It is just wrapped up in a shiny interface, and slathered with trademarks and software patents and contextual advertising and lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit.

  12. Joseph Bryant

    Support commitment

    Customising Linux for a particular laptop isn't as simple as just hacking a few menu items away, though. What happens when a security vulnerability is found in the package you customised? Users with a mainstream distribution will get a fix automatically. Your laptop users won't, unless you're prepared to set up your own package server, and keep patching every new release of every package you've customised. Certainly that's not impossible, but it's a bigger commitment than the author suggests.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    First order of business :

    Get support from the consumer electronics sector.

    An OS is an enabler. It enables you to use the tools (ie) software) you require.

    If I buy a gps, a music player, NAS sotrage, or whatever, windoze software is included with the product.

    Then I have to scour the internet to find a bunch of half baked home brewed apps that allow me use said hardware. This stuff - more often than not - refuses to work properly, sometimes resultg in major unpleasantness with the OS, that now refuses to open the email app, or worse.

    They need to get rid of this faffing about. If I buy a GPS from a leading manufacturer, it should include an installer for the maps and routing software I can install and get to work.

    I am not in the business of getting consumer electronics to work with my OS. I am in the business of using said electronics to get on with my life.

    So fix it, or do I have to come over and do it for you ?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    quite a longwinded way of saying...

    if zaReason want a comparable UX to Apple then they need their own distro

    if Canonical want a comparable UX to Apple then they need to build their own hardware (or, for the pedants, spec it and have Foxconn make it)

    Apple has consistency and reliability (look-and-feel, operability, ...) by exercising absolute control over, well, everything. If Canonical want the same then they have to do the same. That doesn't sound achievable when starting from a FOSS position because absolutes and control aren't really what the punters are after.

  15. James Hughes 1

    Canonical need to build there own HW?


    You can buy fantastically speedy and robust PC's off the shelf which Linux just works on. No need to design you own. You can spec your own of course, say, a minimum spec processor, minimum memory, particular graphics card, minimum resolution display, wireless etc but to be honest, that all you need to do. No need to design your own at all. Everything you need is already out there.

    HW design is expensive, time consuming, and ultimately pointless here, just spec what's you want your OS to run on, and buy off the shelf. Re-label it if you want, but don't redesign it.

  16. Elmer Phud

    Nail -- head

    " . . .but the point is that the average user doesn't care. They just want something that works, and the iPhone/iPad have now set a new standard in "just works" simplicity."

    Yup, sounds like me - and most that I know.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    (Imagine a "sinking ship named Ubuntu" icon)

    What differentiates the ZaReason netbook from an EeePC? Ubuntu logo key, Ubuntu preinstalled, 1/2 pound less, and $100 more? I've got better uses for the $100. What I really want is *open* ARM hardware -- netbooks, smartphones, desktops, servers.

    I don't understand Apple envy. Their software is only superficially simple. There are a lot of nice tweaks that you can only do in the terminal, which are all right there in GNOME's "too complicated" preference dialogs. Even Windows (from Win7 all the way back to 3.0) wins on the UI front, especially for keyboard users. Ubuntu *already is* the best of both worlds, in terms of UI and security. Now if only Canonical would do something about the Apple-esque breakage-on-upgrade issues, and quit farting around with eye candy and "clever" UIs, for crying out loud!

    Seriously, do I have to write my own OS if I want something that just works *for programming* (which is what computers are for)...? It might be easier than using Ubuntu/OSX/iOS/Windows/etc, the way they're going.

  18. such_a_little_thing

    617929...can't say I didn't see this coming :(

    Yes Matt, uh huh, all the "squabbling" is Gah! I'm not sure I could even begin to explain the concept of there being more than just money to GNU/Linux, and life in general, to you. Sad really. I (and others) have had some harsh words for Mr. Shuttleworth this past little while, but only with the intent of making a great man see the errors in judgment that are stifling him. With friends like you, I can see why this is such a hard labour. This article rehashes a concept that has been around for years; There is nothing new here (besides some advantageous product placement perhaps?). It does, however, provide some intriguing and potentially harmful link bait that exploits the timing of controversy which is not much fun for anyone. But hey, clicks are clicks and it's just business, right? much profit did you make kicking your friend while he's down?

  19. Andrew Wigglesworth


    "a world where software has been "app-ified" or gone SaaS"

    I don't know which world you're talking about, but it certainly isn't this one.

  20. Andrew Wigglesworth

    Unity and Gnome.

    Also, I've noticed this in more than one article on The Register.

    Ubuntu's Unity *is* Gnome based, it runs on Gnome, it cannot exist without Gnome. Please look it up and try to understand.

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