One Ubuntu: Canonical Simplifies Product Branding

Christopher Tozzi, Contributing Editor

March 10, 2011

3 Min Read
One Ubuntu: Canonical Simplifies Product Branding

Ever wonder why Ubuntu Desktop Edition is named such, despite the fact that it runs perfectly well on plenty of non-desktop hardware? I do, at least. Luckily, Canonical has promised to simplify things in the upcoming 11.04 release by amalgamating the different faces of Ubuntu into one flavor to rule them all. Here’s the how, plus the why.

First, though, lest we engender hysteria within the KDE/Xfce/LXDE communities, we should make clear that there are no plans to ax Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu or any other official or non-official Ubuntu spinoffs. Those are all sticking around as the sister-projects or third-party “remixes” of Ubuntu that they currently are.

But what will change is the branding for Canonical’s most popular product, the build of the Ubuntu Linux distribution targeted at end users. Currently, the company ships Ubuntu Desktop Edition alongside Ubuntu Netbook Edition, creating mayhem (or at least mild confusion) for users, since Ubuntu Desktop Edition is not limited to desktops as strictly defined — it also runs on laptops, netbooks and even some phones, if you’re geeky enough. And Ubuntu Netbook Edition would probably work on most desktop computers, if you wanted it to (I’ve never tried). Meanwhile, Ubuntu Server Edition is available as yet another download.

Add to all this branding nuance the fact that Ubuntu Netbook Edition was the successor to Ubuntu Netbook Remix, which used a different interface, and you have to start taking notes to keep track of what’s what.

More Conventional Naming Conventions

Fortunately, as marketing manager Gerry Carr explained on the Canonical blog, the release of Ubuntu 11.04 in April promises to make life simpler by forging all of the desktop/laptop/netbook/phone-targeted builds of Ubuntu into one product, branded simply as “Ubuntu 11.04.”

This change doesn’t solve some of the deeper branding ambiguities which Ubuntu community members have pointed out, and the new title might not be as objectively cool as the names of other open source applications, but it’s certainly easier to remember than the branding on which Ubuntu currently relies.

Server users, meanwhile, will be directed to “Ubuntu Server 11.04.” And by all indications, the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud images will be maintained as they currently exist, but since these have never quite been treated as a distinct product as much as a particular build of Ubuntu Server Edition, don’t expect to see rebranding here.

Carr emphasized that the change should not be interpreted as a move away from any of the markets in which Canonical is currently invested:

This is the opposite of us withdrawing from the netbook market. In fact looking at the download figures on interest in netbooks is not only thriving but booming. It’s us recognising that the market has moved on and celebrating that separate images are no longer a requirement as the much anticipated convergence of devices moves closer.

Instead, he pointed — quite logically — to the use of the Unity interface on all non-server builds of Ubuntu as the reason for the change. Since the 10.04 release of Ubuntu Netbook Edition already uses Unity and the desktop edition of Ubuntu is also set to adopt the interface in the next release, there will cease to be any real distinction between these different faces of the operating system.

Now if only we could agree on how to pronounce “Ubuntu,” we’d be able to live happily ever after.

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About the Author(s)

Christopher Tozzi

Contributing Editor

Christopher Tozzi started covering the channel for The VAR Guy on a freelance basis in 2008, with an emphasis on open source, Linux, virtualization, SDN, containers, data storage and related topics. He also teaches history at a major university in Washington, D.C. He occasionally combines these interests by writing about the history of software. His book on this topic, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” is forthcoming with MIT Press.

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