Open Source Ubuntu OS Makes Strides in Emerging Markets
If you live in Europe or the United States, it might be hard to believe that Linux is still a serious contender on desktop PCs. But it is, at least in emerging markets. That’s according to recent comments from Canonical VP of Sales and Business Development Chris Kenyon, who claimed that Ubuntu will ship on 9 percent of PCs worldwide by 2014. Read on for details on this and other surprising updates from the world of desktop Linux.
Kenyon shared the 9 percent marketshare figure during a chat with attendees of the most recent Ubuntu Developer Summit in Copenhagen, according to a report on OMG! Ubuntu. He also mentioned that Ubuntu has been preinstalled on $7.5 billion worth of devices in the previous two years, another impressive figure.
Some of this growth has been in Europe, where Asus in particular has been active selling netbooks powered by Ubuntu. As we reported last month, the OEM recently introduced two new models of Ubuntu PCs to coincide with the Windows 8 release.
Emerging Markets: Key to Canonical’s Success?
But the lion’s share of Ubuntu investment by OEMs has come in emerging markets, where proprietary operating systems — in their legal versions, at least — are not as entrenched as they are elsewhere, and where Ubuntu’s nonexistent price tag can have more of an impact.
More than a year ago, Canonical announced plans to begin partnering with Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) to offer Ubuntu PCs inside retail stores in China. That endeavor reportedly has enjoyed significant success, with 400 stores featuring Ubuntu machines.
Meanwhile, HP (NYSE: HPQ) also has now entered the scene, further reinforcing Ubuntu’s foothold among major OEMs in emerging markets. And Kenyon added that Canonical is working with large OEMs in Taiwan, which could open another huge market for Ubuntu PCs.
Are Desktops Enough?
The information Kenyon brought to light is very interesting, especially for observers who might have written off the viability of Linux as a desktop operating system. It shows that, even after more than a decade of failed efforts to establish open source operating systems on a large scale for consumers in the United States and Europe, there may be a bright future for Ubuntu PCs in other markets.
There are some potential caveats to keep in mind, however. First, it’s not clear that all of the customers who purchase Ubuntu PCs in China are actually using Ubuntu. They may be bringing them home and installing pirated copies of Windows. On the other hand, such claims may simply also be Microsoft FUD. In the absence of reliable, unbiased research on this issue, it’s hard to say for sure.
At the same time, Canonical should be careful not to get too ahead of itself as it invests in desktop Ubuntu in emerging markets. The future of computing lies in tablets and other mobile devices, and to be successful in the long term, Canonical needs to continue its investments in that area. PCs are still popular, of course, and they likely will retain greater importance in emerging markets for longer than they will in the United States and Europe. But even in China, there will come a day when no one wants PCs anymore. Ubuntu had better be completely tablet-ready by then.