- 21 Apr 08, 12:13 GMT
His main point was that Linux, and use of Ubuntu, was on the rise. He also had lots of interesting things to say about open source more broadly, the Microsoft-Yahoo deal etc, which I thought I'd detail here as a Q&A.
Q: Will a combined Microsoft-Yahoo deal impact on the open source world?
Mark Shuttleworth: It will be very interesting for Microsoft, if the deal goes through. They will have 20,000 people (at Yahoo) who are firm free software advocates reporting to Steve Ballmer.
That is going to change Microsoft culture in a healthy way. Talking to Microsoft employees I get the sense they realise they can't transform that company into a Windows-based company without killing it.
It will be healthy for them because they will be in the same position as their customers - having to use open source software alongside proprietorial software and finding appropriate places to do each of these things.
That will make them a more normal company
Q: How is Linux innovating beyond the desktop?
Mark Shuttleworth: We are seeing a lot of innovation in the consumer electronics area - all driven by Linux.
Motorola, for example, has said that 60% of their phones will be running on Linux within three years. I expect that figure to not stop at 60%. It will power on right past that.
The majority of the new small phone manufacturers are a real hotbed of innovation in China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan and are using Linux as a platform.
It suggests that Linux enables anyone to innovate. One of the harshest criticisms I ever saw coming from the proprietorial software world of Linux was that it only copied the ideas that had already been proved in the commercial software world.
This is quite deeply offensive to anyone who has been close to the open source. If you look at all the innovation in internet itself, which is largely powered by free software, and then if you look at the innovation placed on top of that - everything from YouTube to Facebook, eBay, Amazon, Google - these extraordinarily innovative technology companies are really powered by free software.
Now increasingly we are seeing innovation happening on things that every day consumers use, like Firefox.
If you look at innovation in the web browser - Firefox faced a long walk in the desert as it reached for feature parity with Internet Explorer. But once it reached that it became an extraordinary hotbed of innovation.
Anybody who had interesting idea about how to make the browser better could build that as a Firefox extension.
Q: What impact can open source have in the commercial world?
Mark Shuttleworth: Open source is the key. The tech industry has tended towards natural monopolies, towards a single company which comes to dominate the whole platform - it's true of databases, true of operating systems, of every category of software, due to the network effect.
Open source is the very best defence we have against that underlying tendency.
Q: What are the common misconceptions of open source and Linux?
Mark Shuttleworth: One of the key things is that end users are very often not aware that a particular piece of software is open source or not - and that's a good thing.
For example, when people sit down in front of an Apple computer [they don't know that] a lot of key capabilities are produced as open source.
Folks should adopt the best software for themselves. Increasingly that's open source.
I'm willing to bet the majority of people in the UK are running Linux in the home if they have a set top box or digital photo frame, or wireless access point.
The vast majority of those devices are powered by Linux. And the economics of them only possible because of open source.
Q: What do you make of Microsoft's assertion that Linux infringes many of the firm's patents?
Mark Shuttleworth: Microsoft has said there might be patent infringements but haven't said which patents Linux/Ubuntu might infringe.
Anybody who works in the Linux industry is very confident that if Microsoft were able to say which patent issue needs to be addressed then Linux folks would either invalidate that patent or find a way to implement Linux without trampling on that intellectual property.
There's no culture of piracy in the Linux community. It does everyone a bit of a disservice when Microsoft characterises the open source community as being cavalier with intellectual property.
In fact, the open source community is extremely respectful of intellectual property rules.
It's disingenuous of Microsoft to say there are patent issues and then refuse to say what they are. It looks to me like they are trying to create an element of uncertainty.
Q: Will you be returning to space in the future?
Mark Shuttleworth: I'd really like to. I expect to. It's a great privilege and not something I'd want to squander.
I feel I have to do some other things on earth that justify me taking up a precious seat.
I stay in fairly close contact with folks who run the Nasa and Russian projects so if the right opportunity comes up...
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