The Ubuntu Banshee Thing
|02/03/2011||Posted by b1ackcr0w under Outlaw Pla.net|
Sometimes it takes a few days consideration before you can reach a considered opinion on an issue. So it has been with me on Canonical’s move to secure some of the funding coming from the online music sales resulting from Banshee distribution. In essence, what I want to say is that I think that although Canonical has made an awful hash of communicating the news, on reflection they’re actually doing nothing wrong at all here.
I listened with interest to the Linux Outlaws live show on Monday night. And I think some of their comments missed the point in several crucial areas. Firstly, although the sums of money at this moment in time aren’t huge, it’s the potential future market that’s important. Love them or hate them, Ubuntu have big ambitions for the desktop market, and they are just about the only credible group placed to achieve them at this moment in time. It’s a lot better for everybody that they get issues with their revenue streams sorted while they’re 5 figure sums than waiting till they’re 7 figure amounts and it all has to go to litigation.
Which brings me to the heart of the matter, whether they are entitled to the money in the first place. And this is the bit where I find most of those pouring invective have totally missed the point. I’ve heard many folk bemoaning injustice because they feel Ubuntu would be nowhere without Gnome. A fair point, BUT! Where would Gnome be without Ubuntu and Canonical’s work getting Gnome into people’s front rooms? Not in anywhere near as many front rooms is the answer. Yes, Gnome have provided a very useful technical platform that Ubuntu has used to launch its assault on the popular desktop. But it’s taken Canonical to package it together as a truly credible Mac and Windows alternative (in the home market at least, which let’s face it it where this money is coming from). Let’s also not dismiss what Canonical has done in terms of marketing Gnome to a far wider audience. I haven’t seen the balance sheets, but it’s a safe wager to bet that we’re talking hardcore dollar. It’s a case of getting the cart before the horse. People aren’t moving from Windows to Ubuntu because they like what they saw of Gnome and Banshee at GUADEC. People are coming to like Gnome and Banshee when they use it as a result of coming to Ubuntu because Canonical have managed crowbar them away from their Redmond addiction.
What I really don’t see is the downside to this long term. Let us assume that Canonical achieves some of it’s ambition to bring Ubuntu (and by extension GNU/Linux, Gnome, Banshee et al) to a magnitude greater audience. Their math stacks up. It is much better for Gnome to get a decent chunk of a potentially fucking enormous pie, than all of a piddling little niche pie. Thanks to Alan Pope, I’ve read the Ubuntu Community meeting IRC transcript and I can see that they’re happy to accept that Gnome needs their cut. So where’s the harm?
The only criticism that is nearly hitting the mark, is that the PR presentation was a pigs ear, no doubt. Even so, I think some people were wearing their shit tinted spectacles to view the thing. Canonical said that they made a mistake. What more do you need, Jono’s head on a spike out front of RMS’s yard? They fumbled an easily misconstrued business negotiation in public. These things are going to happen along the path of making successful software. Get over it.