Ubuntu: Canonical’s New CEO Discusses Top Priorities
... organized by topic.
1. On Canonical's Business Direction:
Canonical’s CEO crown officially transitioned from Mark Shuttleworth to Jane Silber on March 1. During a phone discussion with The VAR Guy yesterday, Silber shared her top priorities for Canonical and Ubuntu. She also disclosed plans to make another key executive hire at Canonical. And, Silber shared some views on Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx), the cloud — and the potential sale of Linux rival Novell to a hedge fund. Here’s a recap of the discussion…
… organized by topic.
1. On Canonical’s Business Direction:
“Fortunately, I have history with the company and that’s an easier transition [than an outsider coming in to become CEO],” said Silber, who previously was COO at Canonical. “This isn’t about a new vision or new direction for Canonical. It’s really about continuing to executive on business goals, product strategies and community commitment. We’re still committed to being the platform across desktop and server. We’re six years old now, and by some standards we’re a startup but by others we’re a pretty mature company. There’s a phase where we now need to execute and deliver. We will continue to address both consumer space (as more form factors come into play) and the server/enterprise space.”
2. On Canonical’s Strategic Business Partners
“I have worked and met with our partners in the past,” said Silber. “In the last couple of years, Mark did more of it. I expect Mark to continue in that role as well, and Matt Asay will have a role in those relationship building efforts, tpp. It’s a great opportunity for us to [have three executives] expand those relationships.”
Asay, a veteran of Alfresco, is joining Canonical as COO.
3. On Canonical’s Size and Financial Performance
Canonical now has about 320 employees. When asked about annual revenues, Silber politely declined to go into deep details. “We have a general policy in terms of not discussing or revenue publicly, but we are on a path to profitability. In terms of what we offer markets…our offerings are getting more mature. We see increasing demand there. We’re comfortable with the trends.”
But, Silber conceded at one point in the discussion: “We’re not profitable now.”
4. Canonical’s Next Executive Hire
Silber says Canonical is in the process of hiring someone to run the company’s Online Services Business Unit, which essentially is the Ubuntu One online storage and file sharing service. When Silber was COO she handled that business responsibility, but now Canonical is carving out those responsibilities for a new hire to handle.
5. On Canonical’s Biggest Challenges
“I think our biggest challenges are keeping focus and maintaining direction in rapidly changing ecosystem,” said Silber. “There are lots of big and small players in this space, and it’s much more crowded than it used to be. We see players with OSes that 5 years ago didn’t think of offering an operating system. It creates opportunity but also creates noise in the market. Our challenge is to keep our focus.”
6. On the Potential Sale of Novell to a Hedge Fund
Here, Silber is largely observing rather than commenting. “It certainly will be interesting to follow,” said Silber. “I suspect it will take some time for that story to play out, but that’s just my guess.” Then, Silber pointed to the potential Novell sale as yet another potential change in the ecosystem. “Like I said, we have to stay focused.”
7. On the Launch of Ubuntu 10.04 in April 2010
“Very excited about it,” said Silber. “It’s a bit of a cliché, but I think it’s the best one yet. One the desktop side, people will be impressed with boot speed and the music store is generating a lot of commentary. It’s a significant piece of work. We’re really bringing the open source community to a more mainstream consumer world. There’s some controversy as to whether it’s right to sell music in Ubuntu. I think those are important issues to discuss, and I think think we’re doing the right thing.”
On the server, “our focus continues to be on the enterprise and the cloud. Since 10.04 is a Long Term Support release, it’s exactly the type of release that ISVs and enterprises are looking for.”
The VAR Guy will be back in the days ahead, tracking Ubuntu 10.04’s imminent launch in April 2010.