Monday, February 21, 2011

Canonical (Ubuntu) gets ready to screw another partner

A few months ago, Ununtu Linux maker Canonical shocked and irritated the community by announcing that they would be switching from the long-time default GNOME desktop to their own "used to be for netbooks only" Unity desktop. Then, they announced that they were ditching the grandaddy of display servers, X-Window, for an upstart one called Wayland. Now, in what appears to be a very important but less ire-inspiring decision, the company announced that it would only include the Banshee Music Player as the default media player in the upcoming 11.04 release IF they either dropped their music store link or paid Connonical 75% of the revenue they earned from it.

I believe Conicalness's decision to treat the Banshee project (which is owned by Novel) in this manner can only be interpreted two ways:

1. Canonical is trying to eliminate a competitor to their own music store (The Ubuntu One Music Store).


2. Canonical is attacking the GNOME project financially since nearly all of the revenue earned by the Banshee project from their Amazon store goes to the GNOME Foundation.

Either way, it's a dispicable move and it's one that raises serious questions in my mind about Connonical's business practices. While I understand they absolutely have the right to include whatever software they want in their distribution, this feels *very* Microsoftish in the way they're doing this.

One of the absolute foundations of open source is the free market. Everyone is on a level playing field and customers will naturally gravitate to whoever has the best service or product. it also means that open source software is a constant game of 'one-upsmanship' where competiting project are always seeking to outdo each other and be the best. In *that* market, the customer always wins.

Contrast that to the way proprietary companies like Microsoft operate. In the proprietary business model, it's not about who's best; it's about locking in customers and holding them hostage. This is the *exact* same thing Canonical is doing with Banshee and the music store issue. If Banshee is the best music player available, isn't it in the best interest of Ubuntu users for Canonical to include it? Also in the best interest of Ubuntu users would be to allow Banshee to keep the music store and for Canonical to compete head to head in making the best music store experience it can for its users.

It's time for Mark Shuttleworth to stop acting like Steve Ballmer or Steve Jobs and start acting like an open source community member who's leading an open source company. My prediction is that if Shuttleworth continues his push to alienate projects, he's going to find both himself an his company standing alone in what amounts to giant vacuum that looks remarkably like that of Apple or Microsoft.

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