He wasn't talking about 20-million new copies of Ubuntu being installed. That's easy to believe. True, desktop Linux has only a fraction of the total desktop market, but there are certainly tens of millions of Linux users. Mind you, there are hundreds of millions of Mac OS X users and over a billion Windows users.
In analyzing those numbers, Gerry Carr, Canonical's director of communications, said "The low number of [Ubuntu] pre-loads is certainly a concern . [It's] reflecting the continuing lack of availability in the market. We also probably under-counted this as we asked about the version users are currently running versus how they originally acquired a version. Still the good news from the sales team in Canonical is that 2012 should see a turnaround in this availability issue at least in many markets so again, a figure that is worth tracking over time." In short, Canonical expects that there will be a lot more vendors selling a lot more Ubuntu equipped PCs and laptops this year.
20-million or so more though? I asked Shuttleworth about it and he stands by his prediction. "That's what we think, based on projections, tell you how it went in a year :) Globally, with all the big brands, pretty evenly distributed. We ship with Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and quite a few smaller ones."
Well, there you go. Even globally I'll be surprised if Ubuntu can move that many unit. Still, Ubuntu 12.04 is looking great and I really can't see many Windows users switching from XP or Windows 7 to Windows 8 later this year. So, as was the case with Vista, desktop Linux in general, and Ubuntu in specific, may get a brief shot at gaining more desktop users. Yes, conceivably even 20-million more who are willing to buy PCs with Ubuntu ready to go on them.