Three Reasons the Ubuntu Desktop Lags the iPad

by Mike on March 8, 2012 · 11 comments

in Reviews

Three Reasons the Ubuntu Desktop Lags the iPad

The Ubuntu Desktop, lacking the technology and innovation of the iPad, is loosing ground in the race for a common desktop.  This article provides three reasons the iPad is dominating and why Apple is making money while Canonical is struggling.

A Focus on Hardware

The iPad is installed on specifically engineered hardware designed to work perfectly with the iPad software. This one concept is extremely powerful as Apple benefits by configuring specific software to work with one variable for each aspect of the iPad. This makes it easier for engineers, designers, training, support and yes ultimately the user. Engineers create drivers for one wireless device, 4G LTE in the new iPad, which allows them to focus on a flawless release.

This is compared to the unbelievable number of wireless devices Ubuntu must be configured to be able to use. I don’t know how many times people ask me, can you help me set up my wireless device? Like, if you have installed one they are all the same. Hey, if you have installed Ubuntu on multiple machines you know the agony can be different on each device because there are thousands of manufactures or wireless devices. Apple is able to engineer a device driver for one option while Ubuntu users demand Ubuntu to be able to install wireless technology for Ubuntu on most hardware that was not designed for Ubuntu, in fact designed for Windows. This is an incredible requirement by the Ubuntu community…it is just not realistic.

 A Focus on Support

Because Apple is able to focus on limited hardware, support is relatively simple. Apple users always are talking about how easy it is, well this is part of the reason. Apple saves money, creates margin and is able to provide greater satisfaction to users, all because they focus on one hardware device like the new iPad.

Ubuntu on the other hand, is cursed by the impossible task of being required to support all types of hardware which it was never designed for and will never be able to satisfy users completely. Anyone in a support role for the Ubuntu desktop knows the frustration of limitless options.

 A Focus on Social Acceptance

Apple has been able to create a frenzy over the new iPad with it’s new Retina Display display providing 2048×1536 resolution, voice dictation and 4G LTE. The new iPad will boast a 5 megapixel camera, a new A5X chip for a processor which provides quad core graphics making it four times faster than competitors. It is incredible that in just a few years the iPad is so socially accepted, mainly because of the technology that is consolidated on the device. Apple is able to provide the end user with a product they want simply because they can focus all of their resources and innovation into one device.

Ubuntu which hit the world scene with excitement has failed to create a frenzy on the desktop and in the process spent considerable resources with little financial return. Because of the wide loop Ubuntu has thrown around so many devices from so many different manufacturers, they are simply drifting further behind. I talk with large corporations every week and I have not found one moving or even discussing movement to an Ubuntu desktop. However, every company I talk to is testing or has already started rolling out the iPad for some special purpose within the organization. Let’s face it Ubuntu and Linux in general is loosing ground in the desktop market because they are so widely focused they cannot provide what the consumer/user wants.

Focus: A Tale of Two Different Paths

The two organizations are going down two different paths. Apple has recently become the most valuable company in the world and is still grabbing market share from everyone. Ubuntu, on the other hand, which originally received $10 million funding from Mark Shuttleworth has announced as of April 2012 it will no longer fund Kubuntu. Financially, they are going in different directions with different philosophies. One a corporation focused on making money while the other, providing a free desktop to the world. Oh, maybe that’s the difference, Ubuntu providing open source technology for a world of people instead of marketing a product for those who have the cash.


Rigved Rakshit March 8, 2012 at 11:49 pm

So, you want companies to pay exhorbitant amounts for over-priced hardware (read: Apple products). Ubuntu on the oher hand, works out-of-the-box on all standardised hardware (hardware that does not use proprietary interfaces to the hardware). So, Ubuntu will likely work on hardware that I already have. So, isn’t Ubuntu the more viable option?
Kubuntu has been a community-based distro for a long time. There was one paid Canonical employee working on Kubuntu earlier. Now, he’s working on Kubuntu as a volunteer. This is the meaning of “Canonical has stopped funding Kubuntu”.

Mike March 9, 2012 at 4:25 am

The point I was trying to make is the contrast and advantages financially that Apple has by focusing on proprietary hardware/software. My fear for Ubuntu is that they are going the direction that Mandriva did, no real sustainable plan for economic expansion and development. Contrast that with Red Hat who has become a major player because of their focus on training and subscriptions. I have talked several times with Ubuntu about creating a training plan, as they are trying to find a way for training to pay for them. I received a consulting job this week from a company that said they could not get Canonical to get the job done with their Ubuntu servers. There are a lot of indications that Ubuntu has lost focus.

JeffH0821 March 9, 2012 at 10:21 am

So how did Microsoft make it work? They only focused on the software stack and supported a swath of hardware. You going to tell me it was simply timing?

I think the difference is not the focus on a closed-platform. It is the ability for a company to create an ecosystem around their product. Apple does it, Microsoft does it, Ubuntu does it but with the wrong people. Evangelists don’t lead the masses. You need eye candy and a trail blazer to do that. I would suggest reading “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell to see how these ecosystems take off.

Jan March 9, 2012 at 11:12 am

Ubuntu give me freedom
free software
ability to choose hardware
Apple give me nothing

Vitto March 9, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Well, from the article I can realize that the more closed and proprietary devices are, the more airily they work. Because of reducing number of side influences. And the more airily it works the more customers want it. But Ubuntu is a part of free software movement and is tended to distance from proprietary approach to close itself in a small room of certain devices. So may be they — Apple and Ubuntu — have different ways and different purposes? And going to the Apple’s way is not the honor for Ubuntu?

Carling March 9, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Are you indicating that Apples servers are better,? How many commercial enterprise companies use over rated, over priced Apple products,? Apple OS/x is the worst operating system on the market for insecurity, as for freezing up and getting viruses it’s no better than windows,

Connie New March 9, 2012 at 1:06 pm

We are comparing apples and oranges. It does not work. Apple manufactures hardware and have as a selling point built a software ecosystem that is popular and marketed well. Ubuntu is a free OS, an open system, that can not be confined to one ecosystem. You can not distribute Ubuntu only hardware.

A. C. March 9, 2012 at 2:23 pm

You left out a fourth thing: Ubuntu developers are mainly focused on satisfying themselves. They ultimately produce software they prefer, and, in the fifteen years I’ve been using Linux and trying to explain to others why it’s a better choice, it’s never quite been what users want. They just have to know a little more, they should just spend a little more effort learning their system, or, as Linus Torvalds complained, they don’t make it easier for users because it’s too hard to program. At a top-down organization like Apple or Microsoft, there are people that want to please users (read, sell lots of iPads because that’s how users show they’re happy with them). These people are often called middle managers, project managers, jerks, bosses or unreasonable people who make unreasonable demands on developers for software to perform in a way that makes users happier. They actually often are unreasonable, but the developers somehow figure out how to program it. In addition to the three reasons cited above, this unreasonable situation (for developers) is a big part of why the iPad is so much more popular than Ubuntu on a tablet.

Geo March 9, 2012 at 2:30 pm

And Canonical seems to be suing….well no one I can think of and Apple well it’s suing the entire world. Want to think outside the box, don’t choose Apple, want to customise something, don’t choose Apple, Want to live in a world without ITunes…don’t choose Apple. Want to play that video on the Exteranl interface as well as the laptop display…ummm yeah can you say the word RESTRICTED. See any common thread here?

tracyanne March 9, 2012 at 8:16 pm

quote:: Apple manufactures hardware and have as a selling point built a software ecosystem that is popular and marketed well. Ubuntu is a free OS, an open system, that can not be confined to one ecosystem. You can not distribute Ubuntu only hardware. ::quote

No, that would be silly. But…. what you can do is distribute hardware on which Ubuntu, or any other Linux, for that matter, is guaranteed to work perfectly. That is what the spark tablet is… hardware that Linux with a KDE Tablet desktop is guaranteed to work perfectly.

ZaReason and Limux Emporium and System 76 do this, and with, specifically, Ubuntu Canonical could do this, giving them a stable base, and an income, and a growth vector, with Ubuntu preloded on hardware that fully supports Ubuntu, and incidently any other Linux based OS.

Anyone who wants to install Ubuntu or any other Linux on any other hardware is in the same situatiion they are in now.

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