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Tim O'Reilly and I at Ubuntu Live: Be different

Tim and I gave back-to-back keynote speeches at this year's Ubuntu Live. Tim is not nearly as dogmatic as I am, and here's how we came out....

PORTLAND, Ore.--Tim O'Reilly is giving a keynote speech at the Ubuntu Live conference, even as I type. I spoke just before him, and he's now throwing out much of what I said. :-) (I argued that we need to be more religious about open source, not less, by which I meant "filled with passion," not "filled with fury toward unbelievers," which is not a religion that I've seen much of here.)

O'Reilly is talking about the rising tide of Ubuntu, using book data, search data and other things (see right) that lead him to believe that Ubuntu is clearly growing in popularity. Tim warns, however, that we need to not get infatuated with open source qua licensing but rather need to think about how it (and, in this case, Ubuntu) fits into the larger technology conversation.

For instance, what would happen if Ubuntu succeeded in becoming the dominant "L" in the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Python/Perl) stack? (Tim didn't cover this in his keynote, but the question intrigues me.) Web 2.0 companies are in the habit of taking from open-source software and giving back selectively, if at all. As such, they tend to build on the free (as in price) versions of MySQL and Linux.

While these might not be happy times for Red Hat and Novell (though MySQL seems relatively happy with its Web 2.0 position), it can definitely serve as an opportunity for Ubuntu.

And perhaps it can figure out a different way to monetize all this use?

At any rate, interest in Ubuntu is rising. Just look at this Google Trends report:

I don't think that Red Hat is going out of business any time soon at Ubuntu's hands. Indeed, as I noted in my keynote, Red Hat (and Novell, and even Microsoft) is not the enemy. The enemy is how hard it remains to use new technology. I believe that this is where Ubuntu can thrive. Ubuntu should make a rich, easy user experience the critical differentiator.

Back to Tim, who isn't religious about open source. He's religious about open participation. Because Ubuntu does a great job of this, it seems to score high on his list (and in the industry). I don't know, however, how Tim would suggest Ubuntu move forward. The Web 2.0 world feels (to me) like a parasite on open source, not a strong contributor to it. How does Ubuntu enable this world and still thrive within it? I don't know.

I'm not sure that Tim does, either. But he did suggest a few things:

  • The address book and our "real social network"
  • The lesson of Firefox and Foxmarks - Ubuntu as a Web 2.0 distribution platform
  • Ubuntu and the cell phone: what can we learn from iTunes?
  • The missed opportunity of Dashboard: desktop mashups
  • S3 and cloud data applications
  • New approaches to application-independent data

Tim had to run through these, but I'd be interested in hearing more. Maybe at next year's Ubuntu Live?