As Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix Matures, Support Will Be Key
The folks at Canonical have announced Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix, the company's most ambitious offering ever aimed at businesses and government offices. It's based on Ubuntu 11.10, and while Mark Shuttleworth has been playing up the fact that the free software bundled with Business Desktop Remix is targeted at business users, moving toward a supported platform will be the key differentiator for many enterprises.
The targeted software applications that come with Business Desktop Remix are as you would expect. Games are not emphasized, while tools such as the Adobe Flash Player plug-in and the OpenJDK 6 Java runtime environment are present by default.
Ubuntu 12.04, the next release, will be a long-term support (LTS) release, where users get updates and commercial support for five years. We covered version 12.04 in this post.
Notably, Canonical has not copied Red Hat's strategy by delivering an enterprise-focused Ubuntu version along the lines of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). Shuttleworth explained this in a post:
"This remix takes the most common changes we’ve observed among institutional users and bundles them into one CD which can be installed directly or used as a basis for further customization. Before anyone gets all worked up and conspiratorial: everything in the remix is available from the standard Software Centre. Packages out, packages in. No secret sauce for customers only; we’re not creating a RHEL, we already have an enterprise-quality release cadence called LTS and we like it just the way it is. This is a convenience for anyone who wants it. Having a common starting point, or booting straight into a business-oriented image makes it easier for institutional users to evaluate Ubuntu Desktop for their specific needs."
While it's true that Canonical is not copying the Red Hat playbook in terms of the platform that it is offering to enterprises, it will be key, over time, for Canonical to match Red Hat's true strength, which is high-quality support. Red Hat regularly renews all of its top customers to lucrative contracts because it delivers such strong support. Support is also a major cost center whenever it is offered, and businesses will demand it as the Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix matures.
For now Business Desktop Remix will be evaluated by many enterprises, but how support plays out beginning with Ubuntu 12.04 will be the true testing ground for Canonical's strategy.