Canonical: Should Shuttleworth Sell Ubuntu Company?

Canonical needs money to fund the Ubuntu Edge smartphone. Crowdfunding isn't working. Is it time for Founder Mark Shuttleworth to sell Ubuntu to a big technology company?

The VAR Guy

August 8, 2013

2 Min Read
Canonical Founder Mark Shuttleworth has big smartphone ambitions
Canonical Founder Mark Shuttleworth has big smartphone ambitions.

Quick, name an operating system company that’s struggling to push beyond PCs into the smartphone and tablet markets? The obvious answer is Microsoft (MSFT) with Windows 8. But in the Linux and open source world, Canonical’s Ubuntu also applies. And if you look at the Ubuntu Edge smartphone crowdfunding effort, you may see that Canonical needs far more cash for its mobile push. The VAR Guy’s spin: It’s time for Ubuntu Founder Mark Shuttleworth to seek a buyer for his company.

Ubuntu Edge is Canonical’s forthcoming smartphone. It runs Ubuntu and Android, and becomes a full-blown PC when connected to a monitor, keyboard, etc. Canonical launched a $32 million crowdfunding campaign to get Ubuntu Edge off the ground. But the campaign has apparently stalled.

Staggering Sums

For Ubuntu Founder Mark Shuttleworth it’s time to take a hard look in the mirror while considering these numbers: Microsoft has spent $1 billion marketing Windows 8 and Surface tablets. Windows 8 generated mixed results and Surface RT triggered a nearly $900 million write off.

Those Microsoft numbers are massive. And they raise a huge question: Can Canonical really afford a seat in the high stakes smartphone and mobile game? Are the company’s pockets deep enough? Would $32 million — even if crowdfunding had succeeded — really be enough money? It’s difficult to say for sure, since Canonical is privately held and does not disclose its revenues or net income.

For most of its life, Ubuntu has been a darling in the Linux desktop market. And the company also has a good following on servers. But additional offerings like Ubuntu One (file sharing and storage) and Landscape (remote Ubuntu management) haven’t exactly set the world on fire. 

And now comes the big mobile challenge. The VAR Guy suspects it will take hundreds of millions of dollars to make Edge a success. Shuttleworth is rich but does he want to keep opening his own wallet even wider? Or is it time for Canonical to find a new owner? Hmmm…

Is The VAR Guy crazy? Before you answer consider this reality: During Steve Jobs’ most desperate hour at Apple, he welcomed a $150 million investment from Microsoft. 

Apple Fanboys lamented the move. But Jobs stabilized Apple and went on to give the world iPhones, iPads and iEverything Else. 

Can Shuttleworth work some financial magic of his own at Canonical? And might it ultimately include an outside investor or a company sale? Hmmm….

Read more about:

Free Newsletters for the Channel
Register for Your Free Newsletter Now

You May Also Like