October 27, 2010

Day 3 - Wednesday, the Longest Day of the Week (Live from UDS)


Gerry Carr is head of platform marketing at Canonical and is reporting directly from Ubuntu Developer Summit this week. We're hosting those exclusive reports here as a series of guest blogs. Here's the scoop on Day 3, apparently the longest day...

Ah Wednesday - always a challenge. The good people at OpenStack opened up their wallets and sponsored a free bar last night. A huge success. We speak about free as in beer a lot in open source, so it's nice to see it in action. Made for a slow start this morning, but there was no sign of any real casualties.

The problem with Wednesday, though, of course, is that it's in the middle. The initial excitement is waning, and you still can't quite see the end.

However, brightening me up was an awesome demo of Ubuntu Light by Dell and Canonical. It looks superb.

If you are unaware: it is a dual boot option with Windows 7 that Dell will ship later in the year. In essence, users get to choose what they want to boot into: Windows 7 or Ubuntu Light. Ubuntu Light uses the Unity interface, it boots really, really fast and is the ideal companion OS for accessing the web, playing music and video and other consumer-focused tasks.

All the files reside on Windows - it just accesses them seamlessly. Oh, and it looks great.

But I'll pimp Ubuntu Light another day.

The reason I bring it up is that it struck me how UDS is maturing. Rapidly.

There are 400 odd people here for a start; the scale is getting large. We published a website for the first time this time. Yes, really. To date it was a collection of wiki and Launchpad pages that required a login. But we thought to ourselves that perhaps people are interested in what is going on, even if they are never going to attend. So we published the website to let people know what is going on.

And they were interested.

That's part of it, but what's really striking is how close to the user we are. My first UDS was some years ago in Seville, Spain, I think. The conversations there seemed theoretical. "If we did X what would happen?"

Now the discussions are much more focused. "If we do X how many users will that impact and in what way?" "What are these millions of users telling us they like and dislike from the project?" There is quantitative and qualitative feedback on stacks of issues and informing most debates.

Ubuntu Light is a good demonstration of us waving our child out the door to customers. I don't mean Dell in this case but the users themselves.

As part of this and a thousand other initiatives, millions of people will be exposed to Ubuntu for the first time in 2011. And they won't know anything about Linux. And this is a challenge.

What's encouraging is that this is the common refrain at all the relevant sessions I've attended. Developers want to do it right (i.e. do it open), and do it without compromising the user experience. I've been a bit surprised, pleasantly I should say, at the degree to which this focus is top of mind and in a truly organic way.

And it's really heartening, even on a Wednesday.


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