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Has Ubuntu bitten off more than it can chew?

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Is Ubuntu the world’s most successful failure? By far the world’s best-known Linux distro (if you discount the disputable case of Android), it’s achieved what once looked impossible: an easy-to-install, easy-on-the-eye Linux distro that doesn’t immediately alienate anyone without a PhD in computer science. It’s met a punishing biannual release schedule with almost metronomic precision for a decade, embedded an app store long before Apple popularised the concept, and resides on tens of millions of PCs and servers worldwide. And yet…

Despite arguably offering a better desktop interface than Windows 8, Ubuntu remains a resolutely niche OS. Its share of the worldwide PC operating system market has never exceeded 1 or 2%; most web analytics packages fail to even recognise it as an OS in its own right, instead lumping it into a generic “Linux” bucket. That’s hardly surprising, when you consider how difficult it is to buy an Ubuntu system in retail stores – the sales guy at Harvey Norman thinks Ubuntu is a country in Africa. Even ordering systems online from “close” partners such as Dell is challenging.

Yet, despite failing to make a significant breakthrough in the consumer PC market, Ubuntu is accused of selling out by members of the open-source community.

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