20-million new Ubuntu Linux PCs in 2012?

Ubuntu 12.04 will be arriving shortly and Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth expects big things from it: 20-million new PCs sold with Ubuntu in the next twelve months.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Will there be 20-million new Ubuntu users in the next twelve months?

Will there be 20-million new Ubuntu users in the next twelve months?

In less than two weeks, the latest version of Canonical's Ubuntu Linux distribution, Ubuntu 12.04, Precise Pangolin, will be released. This new Ubuntu is looking good. How good? In a recent interview with Julie Bort, Canonical and Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth said, "We expect to ship close to 20 million PCs in the next year."

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.

A first look at Ubuntu 12.04 (Gallery)

Still, 20-million people buying Ubuntu pre-installed on their computers in the next twelve months? That's a lot! Indeed, in Canonical's own recent user survey, a mere 0.1% of Ubuntu users bought their Linux PCs with Ubuntu pre-installed from such vendors as Dell, System76, and ZaReason.

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.

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