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Friday, 18 December 2009 00:44

Shuttleworth steps down as Ubuntu chief

The head of Canonical, Mark Shuttleworth, has announced that he will be stepping down from the role of chief executive and handing over to Jane Silber, the company's chief operating officer.

The change will come into effect in March 2010. Canonical is the parent company of the Ubuntu GNU/Linux distribution.

In a Q and A drafted by the company and posted under Silber's name, Shuttleworth says that he will continue to fund the company as needed and that there will be no change in direction as he and Silber have worked closely over the five years that the distribution has been produced.

There will be a clearer separation of the roles of chief executive and community leader after the changes take effect, according to Silber.

"I will focus on my passions of product design and development. I want Ubuntu to succeed as the open platform of choice for almost all use types whether on netbook, notebook, desktop, server, embedded device or wherever people compute," Shuttleworth said.

"That is an (sic) large undertaking and being able to focus on that, thanks to Jane, is a great privilege. I will also spend more time talking to and visiting partners and customers about what they demand from an open platform and feeding that back into the product through the community and Canonical."

The changes will, according to the announcement, see no change in the role played by chief technical officer, Matt Zimmerman.

"I work with the leaders of each of the teams that have products at Canonical, the most visible of which is the Ubuntu team lead (sic) by Matt," Shuttleworth said.

"While Matt will report to Jane, reflecting the central nature of Ubuntu to Canonical’s range of services, I will continue to engage with the Ubuntu team through the existing design, development and community processes that I currently use to influence the direction of the distribution."

The appointment of a woman as CEO may be welcomed by a group of Shuttleworth's biggest critics.

Shuttleworth came in for criticism by self-styled geek feminists earlier this year, following remarks made by him during a keynote at a Linux confenernce in Portland, Oregon, that were alleged to be sexist.

After an extended period of silence, he finally hit back with a passionate defence of what he has done to promote the role of women in free software and slamming the feminists for their fundamentalism which he said was damaging the cause of women.

It would not surprise me, however, if Zimmerman were to leave the company and the role of CTO is taken by Shuttleworth. Zimmerman has also openly criticised his boss over the same remarks.

In a later case, during a chat session following the release of Ubuntu 9.10, (corrected) a troll tried to provoke Shuttleworth into saying something that could be construed as sexist. Zimmerman again was at odds with his boss, saying that success as far as Ubuntu went was something beyond what is called Bug #1 in the company - the fact that Microsoft has a majority share of the desktop market.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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