Shuttleworth: Canonical may need 3-5 more years of funding

Billionaire Mark Shuttleworth is prepared to keep funding Canonical for three to five more years, he said Monday.

Canonical, the commercial backer of the Linux-based Ubuntu operating system, is not yet turning a profit, but founder Mark Shuttleworth said Monday during a teleconference that he is prepared to bankroll the company for three to five more years.

"We continue to require investment and I continue to be careful with my pennies in making those investments, but I consider this a good proposition," said the billionaire technologist. "Canonical is not cash-positive, but our offering is very attractive to those who want to pinch their pennies in the Linux space."

The dismal economic climate could, in fact, is driving business, Shuttleworth added.

Canonical, which makes money by providing services and support for its software, now has annual revenue in the "several million" dollar range, Shuttleworth said.

The company's lack of profits has not shaken Shuttleworth's belief in its business model. "We are entering a time when there's a real commoditization of the desktop, so I don't think it would be possible to make a lot of money, or even any money, [selling the Linux] desktop," he said. "... The only way to build businesses around Linux is around services."

Shuttleworth held the teleconference in conjunction with the upcoming release this week of Ubuntu 8.10, which includes updates around 3G networks and virtualization.

Looking forward, Canonical expects Ubuntu's development will embrace three key trends, Shuttleworth said: Touch-based interactivity ("most devices will have a touch dimension within them"); 3-D imagery ("the lines between the 2-D desktop and 3-D gaming environment are going to blur"); and the integration of Web-like features with the desktop experience.

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