The popular Linux distribution set a lofty goal four years ago, and hasn’t come anywhere close.
With the end of 2015 imminent, Ubuntu appears to have fallen far short of the 200 million user goal it set back in 2011.
“[Our] goal is 200 million users of Ubuntu in four years,” Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth said at a developer summit in May 2011. “We’re not playing a game for developers’ hearts and minds—we’re playing a game for the world’s hearts and minds, and to achieve that we’re going to have to play by a new set of rules.”
As Linux site Phoronix points out, reports on Ubuntu server and desktop installations have yet to even pass 100 million. Ubuntu’s own website says the desktop operating system has more than 40 million users. Linux as a whole accounted for 1.61 percent of desktops accessing the Internet last month, according to NetApplications. By comparison, Windows 10 hit 9 percent of that market in November, the same month that Microsoft announced 110 million users of its latest OS.
With the PC market in decline overall, it’s unlikely that Ubuntu will get much help from the desktop side in hitting 200 million installs. As such, Ubuntu steward Canonical has made only minor changes to the desktop operating system lately, and has turned greater attention to smartphones and a converged smartphone-desktop OS. Still, Ubuntu’s phone efforts are slow-going so far, with one estimate claiming just 25,000 users as of September.
The “new set of rules” Shuttleworth spoke about may have referred to putting Ubuntu on other rapidly-growing device categories such as TVs and connected cars. But while Linux-based systems as a whole are making some strides in these areas, Ubuntu’s influence has been minimal.
Why this matters: The unmet goal of 200 million users underscores how difficult it is for a platform like Ubuntu to shift from desktops to other devices where the potential for growth is greater. It’s worth noting that Microsoft has set a similarly lofty ambition of 1 billion Windows 10 devices within three years—something that may be difficult to achieve unless Windows can latch onto new product categories such as smart homes, robots, and augmented reality.