Another Executive Departure at Canonical

by Ostatic Staff - May. 09, 2011

Canonical has been much in the headlines with its 11.04 version of Ubuntu, featuring Unity, but the shakeup at the top of Canonical has been much less in the news. The latest executive to announce that he is leaving his post at the company is Matt Zimmerman, who has spent seven years as CTO of Ubuntu. Zimmerman announced his decision in a blog post, and while it's clear that he will remain an active participant in the Ubuntu community, his departure immediately follows the exit of noted open source executive and blogger Matt Asay, who had been Canonical's COO. Is Canonical suffering from a leadership problem?

Zimmerman was a key player during the recent tumultuous but promising era for Canonical and Ubuntu. He writes:

"I intend to remain involved in the Ubuntu community, retaining my elected position on the governing Technical Board, and perhaps to make the occasional technical contribution as a volunteer."

As we noted when Matt Asay left Canonical's COO position at the end of last year, the people at the top of Canonical have a lot to be proud of, and it's not surprising to see these smart people find opportunities in the growing arena of commercial open source. 

Ubuntu has emerged as the Linux distro of choice for millions of people--a true open source success story. I can remember running into all kinds of problems using Ubuntu years ago that just don't present any trouble any more. Ubuntu is very compatible with everything I need it to work with, is more stable and secure than other operating systems and will only go forward.

Still, it is surprising to note that Ubuntu's CTO and Canonical's COO are both exiting stage left in such quick succession. Their departures immediately follow Mark Shuttleworth's exit as Canonical CEO in December of 2009. For his part, Zimmerman expresses confidence in the team he is leaving behind at Canonical:

"The Ubuntu engineering organization, which we call Platform, is a highly capable and motivated team, the best I’ve ever worked with in my career. Building and leading this team has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me. I have every confidence in their ability to support Canonical’s mission in the years to come, and I’m excited to see how they will surprise me in the future."

It's not time to worry about Ubuntu's forward progress just yet, but an operating system is a complex thing to drive forward, and Canonical does need to put some leaders in place who will have staying power and drive business continuity--especially as the new version of Ubuntu is under such close scrutiny.