Ubuntu's New CEO Talks Retail Strategy

Linux at retail has been a hit-and-miss proposition for more than a decade. Consumers have been able to purchase some boxed versions of Linux distros from off store shelves over the years, though for the most part, that's not how most have historically acquired Linux.

Ubuntu has been one such Linux vendor that has had its distribution available at retail. In 2008, Ubuntu was sold for a time at Best Buy locations. Much has changed since then -- owing to a persistently difficult economic climate and a revitalized competitor in the form of Microsoft Windows 7. So what is Ubuntu's strategy for retail in 2010?

In an interview with InternetNews.com, Jane Silber, the new CEO of Ubuntu's lead sponsor, Canonical, shed some light on her company's strategy to get Ubuntu into the mass consumer market.

"On the consumer desktop side, it's a combination of taking some market share from Microsoft as opposed to changes within Linux distributions. And in part, it's about growing the overall size of the pie," Silber told InternetNews.com.

Part of that plan includes driving consumer appeal by including new consumer technology in Ubuntu. One of the new technologies set to be included in the upcoming Ubuntu 10.04 "Lucid Lynx" release is the Ubuntu One Music Store, which will enable users to purchase music. Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx is currently scheduled for release at the end of April.

"I think we'll continue to see more acceptance of Ubuntu in the mass-market consumer space," Silber said.

From boxed sales to PC pre-installs

As far as how Ubuntu actually ends up in consumers' hands, Silber sees OEM partnerships as being the key to getting Ubuntu on retail shelves.

"Retail is a tricky environment, but we are seeing growth there," Silber said. "I don't expect it in the form of a box set of Ubuntu, but I expect it in the form of Ubuntu pre-installed on machines that consumers are buying in retail environments."

Silber added that she expects that Ubuntu's OEM relationships will be an significant area of growth in the coming year.

"We are finding a growing and thriving ecosystem around Ubuntu with OEMs," Silber said. "It's an interesting and challenging environment; basically, what we're doing is getting in before machines hit the shelves, which traditionally has been the hard part for open source software."

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