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Ubuntu makes business moves, but no Oracle deal… yet

On the eve of Ubuntu Linux’s version 6.10 release, Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu and its commercial wing, Canonical Ltd., held an early morning meeting in London to talk about Ubuntu, Canonical, and their business future.

Despite the almost endless rumors about an Oracle deal in the works to either buy or partner with Ubuntu, no such deal, according to Shuttleworth, will be announced… yet.

At the same time, however, he made it clear that there will be a Ubuntu/Oracle partnership in the future. “There has been a tremendous amount of interest in Oracle on Ubuntu, and that will be one of the strategic steps we’ll take in due time,” Shuttleworth said.

It’s worth noting, though, that Oracle has already used Linux for years. It was in 2002, after all, that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison promised to run the company’s entire business on Linux. Oracle also has long-standing partnerships with Red Hat and Novell.

While this will be a big move for Ubuntu as it continues its enterprise push, it won’t be a major change for Oracle.

Still, questions remain about Ubuntu and Oracle’s future. Nick Selby, an analyst for the 451 Group, for example, commented that while “The time of the call — 4am ET / 9am BT — didn’t sound promising for a dramatic, surprise Shuttleworth cameo on stage in San Francisco similar to that at Sun earlier this year, but who knows — Shuttleworth gets around, and could be burning off the jet lag.”

Shuttleworth also said that while there had been discussions with major OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) about a preloaded Ubuntu Linux desktop PC, he had no news, at this time, to report on that front. Dell, in particular, has been mentioned as an OEM that might partner with Ubuntu on a Linux desktop. Like the Oracle stories, however, there seems to be more smoke than fire at this time.

That said, Shuttleworth did say that Canonical would soon be announcing a major desktop PC deal with an Indian OEM. However, Shuttleworth doesn’t see much of a future at this time for Ubuntu as a broad, first world, retail Linux desktop play. The third world and Unix’s traditional high-end workstation market, however, are another story. There, he believes, Canonical can profit.

At the same time, though, Canonical is working directly with businesses, from the smallest to enterprises, on both server and desktop rollouts.

Shuttleworth also made the point that Canonical is working with — and playing well in — the thin-client space. The LTSP (Linux Terminal Server Project) has adopted Ubuntu as the host Linux for its Project MueKow LTSP variant. In MueKow, LTSP ships only the actual LTSP code rather than the entire, and much larger and hard to maintain, LDE (LTSP Build Environment). A MueKow thin-client approach, Shuttleworth believes, makes more TCO (total cost of ownership) sense for businesses that are considering switching from Windows to Linux, rather than the fat-client approach used by Novell in SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) 10 or Red Hat with its Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) worktation.

The South African Linux visionary also talked about Canonical’s close partnership with Intel. In particular, Ubuntu users can look forward to their favorite distribution working well with Intel Core Duo Processors, with the Intel 965 Express Chipset, which is used for graphics, and perhaps most significantly of all, with Intel Centrino Mobile Technology, which is used in many WiFi enabled laptops.

A version of this story first appeared in Linux-Watch.

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