Canonical Announces Ubuntu Developer Relations Advocate Role
Canonical underlined its focus on attracting partners and commercial software developers to the Ubuntu platform when it announced the creation of a “developer relations advocate” position. Here’s the scoop, and what it says about Ubuntu and Canonical in the long term.
The announcement, posted on Canonical’s website by vice president of business development Steve George, describes the role of the developer relations advocate as “evangelizing the platform and assisting developers as they develop software for Ubuntu.”
George also emphasized third-party commercial code, rather than contributions to Ubuntu itself, as the main point of interest for the new position: “Our focus is on commercial software developers since we believe that it’s important to create a sustainable ecosystem around the platform.”
In addition, he pointed out that targeting commercial development “doesn’t exclude FOSS since open source can be commercial,” but added — perhaps to the ire of FSF militants — “although being realistic I expect that most of the commercial software will be proprietary.”
Ubuntu’s Commercial Future?
Placed alongside other recent developments involving commercial applications for Ubuntu — such as the introduction in September 2010 of Fluendo’s DVD Player as the first program available for purchase in the Ubuntu Software Center, and the ongoing construction of a new portal on the Ubuntu website targeted at developers — this news highlights Canonical’s belief that bringing more commercial applications to Ubuntu is crucial to the Linux distribution’s long-term success.
That goal may not sound overly surprising. To observers in the proprietary software world, the importance of third-party commercial developers to assuring a platform’s viability may seem like a dog-bites-man story. In the Linux ecosystem, however, where commercial applications traditionally have made little headway among users accustomed to having their code open and free, Canonical’s commitment to forging strong relationships with commercial developers stands out.
The success of Canonical’s efforts to bring more commercial applications to the Ubuntu platform will depend, then, on the willingness of Linux users to fork over cash in exchange for software. And whether that will prove to be the case is difficult to predict.
On the one hand, plenty of Linux users already use commercial applications. Besides Windows programs they might purchase and execute through wine (I still run Microsoft Office that way once in a while, for instance) and those currently available for purchase through the Ubuntu Software Center, certain commercial applications have enjoyed substantial success on Linux. World of Goo, a closed-source game ported to Linux in 2009, is an example.
On the other hand, if Ubuntu’s zero cost is one of its most attractive features for many users, it seems unlikely that large numbers of them will be eager to pay for software. And even if they are, deep ideological commitments on the part of many in the Linux community to avoiding proprietary code presents a further complicating factor for Canonical’s plans.
But if any modern Linux distribution can pull off a strong partnership with commercial developers, my money’s on Ubuntu to be the one. Its users as a whole tend to be less political than those of distributions like Fedora and Debian, and they’re also more numerous — a key consideration for commercial developers thinking about focusing their efforts on the platform.