Shuttleworth: ‘Linux is Mobile OS of the Future’

Mark Shuttleworth in Portland

Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth gave a keynote at O’Reilly’s Open Source Convention in Portland on Tuesday, affirming that Linux is the platform for the future. On Monday, he gave a more laid-back version to a couple hundred people at a theater pub, including mostly Q&A.

He discussed his 2002 trip to the International Space Station, including a lively anecdote about nearly activating the escape sequence. Where Shuttleworth really preached was when he discussed the future of free software to the open source crowd.

On Mobile

“I have no doubt Linux is the platform for mobile devices in the future.”

“iPhone set the benchmark for what to expect of a mobile phone.”

Shuttleworth noted that the influence of iPhone will go beyond phones. There will be many devices that are neither laptop nor desktop.

“We’re talking about picture frames, remote controls, television sets, hotel in-room, video-on-demand, porn-delivery systems. Anything in the future that you can imagine touching or interacting with.”

On Open Source

In 2003 “we were just scratching the surface of what is possible with free software, both in terms of the amount of energy that’s going into the free software stack and in terms of the economics of it.

We needed to find a way to deliver a certified free software stack, something that’s good enough for production, that’s not a second class offering, and deliver that free of charge. That means trying to find business models around it that are entirely service-based.”

Shuttleworth lauded Redhat and Novell for reaching their technical audiences who enjoy playing OS mechanic. He said to go further, we need to focus on the audiences that require software to work without tinkering.

“Users have the right to expect secure, robust, tested, integrated and supported software.”

Signs are that Linux is making positive improvements. Shuttleworth said recent data from Chinese users given Linux machines is that as many as 20% leave Linux installed, surprisingly high for a country where piracy is less shunned.

One of Shuttleworth’s larger laughs of the night came from a quip about users installing copied versions of Windows:

“People say installing Linux is hard. You should try installing (pirated) Windows.”

On Microsoft

“I have great respect for Microsoft. A lot of people forget this, but Microsoft made software cheap. Before Microsoft, software was expensive.”

Shuttleworth also noted that Microsoft created standards where there were none before. Then he shrugged and acknowledged that the standards might not be the ones that Open Source advocates wanted.

“In the 80s, that was the best way to move software forward. Now I think free software is the best way to move software forward.”

On Shrink-wrapped Ubuntu

Ubuntu is a free operating system, but one audience member relayed a story of seeing a boxed version on a shelf at Best Buy.

“I’m delighted. I want to see other companies be successful around the platform. If that gives people who would not otherwise try free software a reason to try free software, I think that’s great.”

On One Laptop Per Child

“Extraordinary success. Entire category of sub-notebooks would not have happened without One Laptop Per Child.”

On Linux Gaming

“There are two pieces: networking, where we’re strong, and graphics where we’re weak.”

Shuttleworth suggested that casual gaming, where users do not have high graphical expectations, is a place to start.

On Developers

Shuttleworth lamented the decrease in software engineering degrees, then predicted a software-rich future.

“Some people don’t think software matters any more. Look at the iPhone, or Facebook. The whole experience is a software experience. More and more interactions in our life will be driven by software.”

For those who want the full effect, listen to a crowd-recorded audio version of Shuttleworth’s talk.

Shuttleworth photo courtesy of Hockley Photography

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