Thursday, 11 March 2010

Time For Ubuntu to Fork Evolution

No one can deny the current face of Linux to the masses is Ubuntu. It’s massively more popular than any other distro which makes it the flagship for breaking existing market strangleholds.

Take the Enterprise server OS market for instance, a traditionally strong area for Linux anyway, Canonical (the controlling company of Ubuntu) have rightly seen where they need to position themselves to gain the advantage with Server OS’s and have gone down the Cloud route with Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud. Also - beefing up the support options and the packaging to at least align themselves with the normal market leaders Suse and Red Hat helps to gain further server adoption by to using the momentum of all the other Ubuntu areas and user allegiances.

The personal desktop / netbook area is the next to be tackled. Obviously Ubuntu has been trundling along as the best choice for the tiny personal Linux desktop market for a while but it has needed to really stand-out to do battle with Windows and the latest player (rising on the back of the i[Pod|Phone] wave) Mac OS. Again Canonical have pulled the rabbit out of the hat and pointed Ubuntu desktop in exactly the right direction – Social Networking. With Ubuntu Lucid having fully integrated Social Networking and chat they’ve shown they know how people actually use their computers. 9 times out of 10 someone is turning their computer on to participate in Facebook or make Tweets on Twitter, or for the Old-Skoolers chat on MSN. To make the desktop OS actually part of this is exactly the best way to position it and ensures it’s already ahead of the opposition when they realise they need to do the same thing.

Finally, there’s an area that Ubuntu is very weak on and it’s where efforts need to be concentrated next - The Enterprise Desktop.
Novell have previously tried to leverage that market but did it all wrong. They didn’t understand that there is just one killer feature (just as with integrated desktop social networking) that needs to be in there which is Exchange support. Outlook and to a lesser extent Office keeps Windows XP / 7 firmly planted on the Enterprise desktop purely because of its ability to work perfectly with Exchange. Businesses now (rightly or wrongly) revolve around shared mail, contacts, calendaring and scheduling, and Exchange shows no signs of being supplanted yet as the default choice for this functionaility.

With all this in mind I present my recommendation for Ubuntu: Fork Evolution.

Evolution has some good MAPI functionality but for every step forward, it takes 2 steps back. The functionality is very buggy but at the same time is almost there and some real concerted structured development would see it work very nicely and be a drop in replacement for Outlook.
Also, Evolution needs all of this Social Networking goodness that is present in the me menu in Lucid to be integrated into Evolution too. One place for all messaging/contacts/calendaring with Social Networking in there too and we’re getting very close to a framework that supports the multitude of communication mediums we use today.

So in my mind, Ubuntu and Canonical can move one major step forward by leveraging Evolution. Make it fit the new Ubuntu desktop ethos better and make it work properly with Exchange. Once you do that, world domination for FOSS will follow.