Ubuntu is not in direct competition with Windows 7 in the desktop operating system market, according to a top Canonical executive.
That is because Linux's main appeal is to members of the 'cloud generation', who tend to access applications via a browser, said Paul Holt, corporate sales director at Ubuntu-backer Canonical in London on Thursday.
"In my day-to-day role, am I typically [dealing] head-on with people wanting to migrate away from Microsoft environments? Yes-ish," Holt said at the Westminster eForum on open-source software in business and government. "The majority of adoption of Linux on the desktop is essentially people who previously had copies of pirated OSes, or had other ways of getting their OS onto their desktop. We're not necessarily competing with people who might be using Windows 7."
According to the latest figures from Statcounter, Linux had a 0.79 percent share of the global operating system market in August. That put it behind Mac OS X (5.66 percent), Windows Vista (17.68 percent), Windows 7 (19.43 percent) and Windows XP (declining, but still at 55.38 percent). Statcounter pegs Linux's share of the UK market slightly higher, at 0.87 percent, and Linux also has much higher shares of the mobile and server OS markets around the world.
However, Holt said there was a "huge uptake" in desktop Linux among what he termed "web 2.0" companies. "These are companies who are employing people who have grown up not caring about the OS. They live in the browser — in that case, Linux is the best OS to have on the desktop," he said.
Holt, who noted that desktop Linux had been "an interesting journey" for Canonical and other companies that produce and market free operating systems, added that there is a "huge" amount of interest in Linux in the public sector, but not in the UK.
"It's very tough to work in the UK," he said. "Proprietary software companies love working in the UK because the profit margins here are higher than anywhere else in the world, and we've created this environment."
Karsten Gerloff, the president of the Free Software Foundation Europe, was on the same panel as Holt, and said he was "disheartened to hear [Canonical is] not competing with Microsoft in the desktop space".
Holt retorted that, were he to come across a large organisation using Windows, he would have "limited resources" to persuade them to choose Ubuntu.
"I'm in this business to make money, and we have to continue to fund the development of Ubuntu," Holt said. "We're competing with people with billion-dollar marketing budgets. We live in the real world. Do I want to displace Microsoft off the desktop? I'd love to, but I'm also realistic about what we do.
"Microsoft is a great product, it's a good, good product [but] of course I'd love to displace it, because inherently I feel we can bring more value," he added.