Since its inception in 2004, Ubuntu has been the beneficiary in what seems like a bottomless money pit for South African entrepreneur, Mark Shuttleworth via his commercial support and development venture, Canonical. Since Canonical, Ltd. isn't an American publicly-owned company (and I don't know South African law), it's unlikely that a full disclosure of profits and losses is forthcoming. I have read that the investment made so far is approximately $20 million US.

How long can anyone keep pumping money into a project that might not ever turn a profit?

Red Hat is the world's most successful Linux-oriented company and has turned its open source business into a very profitable one with licensing, professional services and support, training and certification and other products like JBOSS.

Although if you think about it, Shuttleworth might have the money to burn for a while since he blew $20 million US to go into space and to the International Space Station in 2002. Apparently he doesn't look for a return on investment for everything he does.

No one knows for sure, except Shuttleworth and his accountant, whether there's any hope that Ubuntu and Canonical will ever be self-sufficient entities. My guess is that it will take a few more years with the current economic downturn to realize any profits from either venture and I'm not sure whether Ubuntu will ever make money or is even expected to.

I'm willing to speak with someone from Canonical or Ubuntu but so far have had no luck in making a connection with anyone for an interview via phone, email or The Frugal Tech Show.

What do you think?
Will the Ubuntu project eventually lose its bankroll or will Shuttleworth maintain the piggy bank for it?
Is Canonical profitable?
Write back and let me know what you think.

Member Avatar for dandart

He's bloody rich and is doing it for the thrill.

In case you didnt know, Canonical is protitable. So that makes the discussion pointless.

How would one know if it's profitable or not?

I'm not sure what the point of your blog entry is, other than to point out that Shuttleworth has the money to go to the ISS... Canonical may turn a profit... Or it may not.

"How long can anyone keep pumping money into a project that might not ever turn a profit?"... Until they run out of money, or until they decide not to.

What does welfare have to do with anything in this article? Shuttleworth has his money and has the right to spend or invest (or waste) it, whatever the case may be, however he wants.

Ubuntu may never make money. Canonical may or may not ever make money. Who cares? Ubuntu is a great thing for those who like it. If you don't like it, don't use it. I'm pretty sure Canonical and Shuttleworth don't want to force Ubuntu on you if you don't want it. Take it or leave it. It is a valuable thing that is offered to you for free.

I think Canonical will probably lose money in the current economic situation (who knows, though).

Shuttleworth will probably continue to fund it - because he can, despite Canonical's profitability. I hope he does.

If you look at "who we are" on Canonical, most Bio's say: "Based in London", including Mark! DistroWatch lists origin as: Isle of Man (UK Crown Dependency).

I'm probably not as well informed as other readers (my first comment on first read article) but if Ubuntu is a significant part of the Open Source community (I think it is) it would seem that profit is more of a personal option/preference for anyone involved with Ubuntu including Shuttleworth. If the current construct he has is working and sustainable - I'm really glad that it works. Ubuntu has allowed my wife and I to both completely abandon the windoze swindle (we both own our own businesses (IT related). I would prefer to contribute (as I see fit) to Ubuntu to keep it alive and viable than to see it become a money trap.

Hello zelrik,

How do you know that Canonical is profitable? This may be the case however I'm curious what is your source from which this claim is made.


Perhaps you have been pro Bush for too long? The concept of charity is not to make money. The idea is to help another human being.

It is sad that you cannot see this.

Mark Heinemann

I doubt that I am alone in sensing some xenophobia here! In any case South African corporate law isn't significantly different from US corporate law, in that companies whose stock is publicly traded have to disclose all financial information, while those that are privately owned don't have to disclose quite as much. However, to set your mind more at rest, Canonical is based in Europe (the Isle of Man), with most of their executives located in London UK - not South Africa. This means that you only needed to have taken the time to do a little homework to find out the facts you appear to be looking for.

The basic question you're raising is one that has been asked about almost every Linux distribution around, at one time or another, and it's a valid one. If the software is free, how do they make any money? The answer is of course that the Linux distro acts as a trojan horse for a whole host of services. In the case of Ubuntu, as it says on their web site "Canonical revenues come from its commercial support contracts and engineering services. Canonical offers global, 24x7 support services to customers ranging from Fortune 500 companies to schools and research institutes to governments." That's pretty much the same story as for Red Hat, Novell and all the rest. As to how successful Canonical have been or will be, I'll let you do the homework and make the calculations, if that's what interests you. Until then I'm afraid I don't see a lot of substance in your post.

And BTW, I'm not an Ubuntu user, employee or shareholder, so I have no vested interests here.

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