Will Ubuntu remain a minor player

It is time for open source advocates to take off the rose-colored glasses and ask if Ubuntu -- more appropriately its Canonical business arm headed by Mark Shuttleworth -- is ever going to be a factor below the server level.

Click2try announced it is hosting a version of Ubuntu, and applications, which people can try free and rent if they like it.

It's the most innovative thing I've seen from Ubuntu in months. And, yes, they didn't even do it.

It is time for open source advocates to take off the rose-colored glasses and ask if Ubuntu -- more appropriately its Canonical business arm headed by Mark Shuttleworth -- is ever going to be a factor below the server level.

I have always assumed that Ubuntu was the desktop play, but it has been blown out in netbooks and seems to have no presence in phones.

Part of the problem is the channel because, as I have written here before, there is a price lower than free. Acquiring a retail presence costs money, and since a free operating system has none it's not happening.

This is doubly true in mobile, where subsidies have to go up the stack to carriers and even manufacturers. The market is a bazaar where everyone wants you to pay before you can play.

This limits Ubuntu's options. You can only get so far on downloads and the charisma of your chairman. Can Ubuntu get farther, or is it doomed to be a minor player?

I know Ubuntu has many friends here. I like to think I'm one of them. Ubuntu has opened many markets by offering localized versions of its software in many languages.

It can rely on others' efforts, like the Linux Foundation, to draw in applications by supporting the Linux Standard Base. It is also supporting Moblin, hosted by the Foundation, as its mobile phone solution.

But all this is low-hanging fruit. If Ubuntu can't gain any retail foothold, if it can't win share in netbooks or on phones, how far can it really go? And how should it get there?

And please don't put it all off on this guy.

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