Google Tightlipped About Ubuntu Linux Plans

The Google rumor mill is churning again. Google has reportedly confirmed it is using Ubuntu desktop Linux technology internally, but has not divulged its purpose.

Google did not return calls seeking comment.

Ubuntu is an ancient African word meaning “humanity to others.” Ubuntu Linux is a complete Linux-based operating system, freely available with community and professional support. It is based on the Debian Linux distribution and the Gnome desktop.

The open-source project was founded by South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth. He also founded the Shuttleworth Foundation after selling Thwate, his Internet security company, in 2000.

A U.K. technology news site report has led to speculation among the blogging community that Google could be preparing a desktop operating system to compete with Microsoft Windows. Analysts, however, aren’t buying into the rumor mill.

Debating the Rumor

“If there’s any company that can pull off the open-source attack on Microsoft, I think Google is it,” said the blog Dymaxion World.

Perhaps, but Jupiter Research Analyst Joe Wilcox is not so sure anybody could pull it off. “I would be surprised if Google is seriously working on a desktop Linux,” he told LinuxInsider. “I don’t see an advantage for Google trying to take on an entrenched competitor like Microsoft.”

Why not? Google has its hands in a plethora of initiatives. Who would have thought Google would have ever become search king in the first place?

Getting Information

The key differentiator is information. Google’s varied initiatives revolve around information. That’s because Google is first and foremost an information company.

From Gmail to Blogger to Picasa to its mapping, Google has built its business providing access to information. If Google plans to launch its own music site — another rumor in the mill — then that, too, would revolve around a form of information.

“Google isn’t a search company. Search is a means to an end. The end is information. Search is how Google makes money off the information,” Wilcox said.

Why Use Ubuntu?

Then why on earth use Ubuntu? Most likely, Google is doing just as it has reported to the media — using Linux for internal work, Wilcox said. He speculated that Google could be using Linux for back end servers, much like other high-profile companies.

“You also have to consider something. Windows is a great vehicle for Google to make money. Why reinvent something that works so well already?” Wilcox asked.

The Apple Factor

Any Google attempt to compete with Microsoft on the desktop should begin with a look at Apple’s success against the software behemoth.

After all, Apple is on the market with a compelling alternative to Windows, yet the Mac OS usage is still relatively small compared to Windows. “Mac OS X has something that Linux doesn’t: key applications, the most important being Office,” Wilcox said.

Google’s Linux Possibilities

Could it be possible that Google is considering developing other Linux-based technologies or devices beyond the desktop? That is more likely, but still unlikely, Wilcox said.

“Google might be working on something for the servers that would facilitate information access. Remember, Google has a deal with Sun now, but that is a high-risk business compared to what they do today,” Wilcox concluded.

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