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Is the Enterprise Ready for Ubuntu?

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"We believe software should be free to anyone. If you want to buy a support contract, it is there for you, [but] there is no premium version [of Ubuntu] that costs money," said Jane Silber, Canonical's chief operating officer.

Ubuntu Linux has gained more than 2 million users worldwide since its release in October 2004, according to Canonical, a small vendor on the Isle of Man that oversees the software.

Most are home users, but at the Desktop Linux Summit 2006, Jane Silber, Canonical's chief operating officer, spoke with Computerworld about the company's efforts to increase Ubuntu's corporate appeal.

Q. How is Ubuntu faring among business users?

A. One of the reasons we delayed the release of Ubuntu 6.06 by six weeks, until June, was because we plan to support it for three years on the desktop and five years on the server -- and that decision was driven by requests from businesses. Both the PC vendors and business users wanted a longer support cycle.

We see interest growing. Our biggest customer is the Andalusian regional government in Spain. That's hundreds of thousands of desktops. We have some deals with banks and retailers that I can't disclose right now.

Q. Did you decide to develop what you're describing as the first enterprise-ready version of Ubuntu because Microsoft is preparing to release Windows Vista?

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