How relevant is Ubuntu?

The desktop is a windmill crazy old Ubuntu keeps tilting at but it's not the measure of the company or its effectiveness.

Ubuntu's move away from GNOME and toward its own desktop interface has our Jason Perlow wondering about its relevance.

It's true. This is not the year of desktop Linux. Neither was last year. Or the year before that.

The desktop is a windmill crazy old Ubuntu keeps tilting at, for the sake of honor, much like Cervantes' crazy knight Don Quixote. (Last played on Broadway by the great Brian Stokes Mitchell, right.)

To each his Dulcinea but, to mix metaphors still further, this is not the droid you're looking for.

Even Microsoft knows the desktop is dying. It's not going to disappear, any more than the TV is going to disappear. But the excitement in technology lies elsewhere, and it's not coming back. (Might as well wait for the Fugees to get back together.)

What's most relevant now is what is behind the curtain, the server farm. You know, the cloud. Not only to the computing mainstream, but to Ubuntu as well. Ubuntu has always made more profit in the server area than in the desktop arena. In some areas it gives Red Hat a serious run for its money in that space.

Ubuntu has never been big enough to make a play in the mass market, to define a space with hundreds of millions of units and own it. It will never be that big.

But Ubuntu will continue to have niches. Servers. Localized desktops using minor languages. Governments that want freedom from proprietary cost structures and license agreements. Africa.

Fact is, as I have said here many times, the profits of open source don't fall primarily on open source enterprises. It's value that people gain, not just directly (free is pretty cheap) but indirectly (everyone must compete with free).

Ubuntu, the word, is a philosophical concept of being open to one another. An understanding of it is the secret sauce tying all the world's great religions together. It's not peace, love, dope. It's no man is an island.

Here Jason, let Nelson Mandela explain it to you once more:

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