Mumbai: UK-based software firm Canonical Ltd is banking on Karmic Koala, the latest version of its free Linux-based operating system (OS) Ubuntu that it launched last week, to penetrate markets such as India where an impending launch of third generation (3G) services is expected to make cloud computing accessible to individual users.
Cloud computing refers to a scalable set of information technology services a user can access over the Internet. Mobile 3G phone services allow users to surf the Internet at speeds faster than those supported by current cellular technologies.
“We are very encouraged that India is on the verge of launching 3G-enabled telecom services that will make more broadband options available,” Kenneth Edwards, Canonical’s global strategy manager who was in India last week ahead of the launch, told Mint.
Ubuntu has seen some success in India, with at least two government projects using the OS. The Assam Electronics Development Corp. in 2008 picked Ubuntu for 28,000 computers for students who scored at least 60% in their class X exams. Last month, Kerala chose Ubuntu for all personal computers of members of the state legislative assembly. In both instances, Canonical will provide Ubuntu for free but charge for support services.
Prakash Advani, partner and manager, central Asia, at Canonical, said once broadband connectivity improves through 3G networks, Ubuntu’s built-in cloud capabilities will popularize it among computer users as well as businesses.
Coming on the heels of Windows 7, the latest operating system from Microsoft Corp. and Snow Leopard from Apple Inc., Ubuntu is banking on Karmic Koala to raise its market share. According to research firm Gartner Inc., Linux has less than 3% market share in India among enterprise and individual users.
It could, however, be a while before Linux systems are able to significantly dent Microsoft’s popularity. “Linux needs a slightly more mature audience to reproduce the capabilities of Windows,” said Nishant Singh, principal analyst at the Indian arm of UK-based technology advisory Ovum. “Ubuntu, however, definitely brings more than the other flavours of Linux have ever done in the past.” It brings with it a new level of marketability, he said.
“The operating system market (in countries such as India) will be heterogeneous,” said Rajan Anandan, managing director, Microsoft India, “Everybody will have their respective place.” While he said there was room for open-source options in India given its price-conscious consumers, Anandan said market share numbers are “clearly indicative of user preference”.
Open-source software are those whose source code is freely available, enabling anyone to copy, modify and redistribute it without paying fees.
In its efforts to reach out to more individual users, Canonical is also focusing on tie-ups with computer makers where a buyer has the option of pre-installing a computer with Ubuntu. It has agreements with computer makers such as Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Toshiba Corp. Late last month, Canonical tied up with Delhi-based Simmtronics Semiconductors Ltd. It has also entered into a global tie-up with International Business Machines Corp. to provide businesses a free alternative to Windows 7.
Emerging markets such as India can save on costs considerably by using free and open-source software, say experts such as Rahul De, a professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. In a September paper, De wrote that government departments, businesses, non-government organizations and educational institutions could save as much as Rs10,000 crore in 2010 by switching to free open-source software.