After five years as CEO of Canonical Ltd., Mark Shuttleworth is stepping down from that role, as current Canonical COO Jane Silber steps up as the new executive leader of the popular Linux distribution vendor.
The changeover is starting now, and will be effective on March 1, 2010.
Outside observers might get more than a little jolt at the news, but in reality Shuttleworth and Silber have shared many of the same responsibilities leading Canonical since Silber joined the company in 2004. This shift represents a definite change, but not a radical one.
As COO, Silber's primary focus has been delivering execution of the strategic visions of Shuttleworth as CEO, she explained in a phone briefing earlier today. As CEO, Silber will capitalize on her strengths as a operational leader to focus Canonical on their current strategic goals, while Shuttleworth will provide strategic support as he focuses on product design and development.
Both executives strongly emphasized that the new leadership will not represent a major shift in strategy for Canonical: don't look for the company to suddenly focus solely on enterprise business at the expense of other aspects of its business. Silber and Shuttleworth have been leading Canonical together for quite some time, and much of Canonical's strategy has been created by these two and the rest of the executive team all along.
This change, in Shuttleworth's own words, is subtle. He kindly gave me an example during the call, highlighting the role of Neil Levine, VP, Corporate Services, who currently reports to Shuttleworth. Shuttleworth described his relationship with Levine as working to build a strategy for Levine's area of expertise, while Levine delivers metrics and execution plans to Silber in her role as COO.
Under the new management, Levine would deliver and implement metrics and execution plans to Silber, while Shuttleworth would support Levine with strategy planning.
And what will Shuttleworth be doing? According to his blog announcement, "I‚Äôll focus my Canonical energy on product design, partnerships and customers. Those are the areas that I enjoy most and also the areas where I can best shape the impact we have on open source and the technology market."
These areas represent a real passion for Shuttleworth, who also plans to continue his roles on the Ubuntu Community Council and the Ubuntu Technical Board. By embedding himself further in the community and product development aspects of Canonical, he hopes to be able to delver more visions for the company while Silber effectively steers the ship where she believes it should sail.
There were, naturally, questions regarding the timing of this move. Did this represent a personal change for Shuttleworth, or was this part of a broader cost-cutting strategy for Canonical? Both execs firmly downplayed these notions, though Shuttleworth indicated that while this management change was not a specific cost-reduction plan, Silber's operational focus and strengths would also be matched by improving the financial performance of the London-based company.
For now, don't look for a big sea change from the makers of the Ubuntu distribution, as the company will remain steadily on course.
"We intend the transition to be a smooth one so in the immediate term it will be business as usual. Over the medium and long term we think this will better align the skills that each of us has and therefore there should be positive benefits for all who are involved in the Ubuntu and Canonical universes," wrote Silber in her corresponding blog entry.