From the get-go, the company behind the popular Linux distribution Ubuntu - Canonical - has backed Ubuntu with Mark Shuttleworth's money. The big question has always been if Canonical is actually making any money. We have a rather clear and definitive answer to that one now.
Chris Kenyon, director of business development over at Canonical, told InternetNews that revenue growth for the company is "extremely strong", and that it comes from both the server side as well as the desktop side. Also of interest are the rather impressive figures Kenyon put out regarding the amount of Ubuntu users he believes are out there:
In terms of numbers we're very confident this is an 8 million plus user base of active users. That is a hard thing to count and there are lots of issues about methodology for counting but I have seen nothing that sheds doubts on that.
Kenyon refused to give any details on how many paying users Canonical has, but the 8 million users figure is rather impressive - assuming the methodology was sound, that is, which is likely to be rather debatable. Fedora, for instance, claims that its Fedora 6 release in 2007 produced 2 million unique IPs, while Red Hat says they have 2.5 million paying customers.
However, growing revenues does not mean profitability. Mark Shuttleworth has a more doomy-gloomy outlook on the whole thing, stating to InternetNews:
Canonical is not Cash positive. I think we could be cash positive if we focus on the core and scaled back. [...] We continue to require investment and I keep being careful with my pennies making those investments. [...] We can't make money selling the desktop that's why we focused on a zero licensing cost business model. The only way to build a business on Linux is to focus on services.