Founded in 2004, Canonical's Ubuntu quickly became one of the most used Linux distros in the world. Canonical's founder is Mark Shuttleworth, who made his fortune by selling his digital certificate authority to VeriSign for $575 million in 1999. To this day, Shuttleworth continues to fund Canonical from his own fortune but despite the popularity of Ubuntu, its marketshare is still very tiny so it's no surprise that Canonical isn't yet profitable. ARS Technica explores what's driving Shuttleworth, you can read it over here.
What may surprise some people is that Canonical could be profitable today if Shuttleworth was willing to give up his dream of revolutionizing end user computing and focus solely on business customers. Most people who know Ubuntu are familiar with it because of the free desktop operating system, but Canonical also has a respectable business delivering server software and the OpenStack cloud infrastructure platform to data centers. Canonical's clearest path to profitability would be dumping the desktop and mobile businesses altogether and focusing on the data center alone.
"We could slice Canonical to something profitable pretty straightforwardly," Shuttleworth said. "We could slice down to the server or we could slice down to just OpenStack, and we'd be much smaller and we'd be profitable."
That, of course, is something Shuttleworth has no intention of doing. While he's known as a true believer in open source software, he has a larger vision of building a single platform that spans everything from phones and tablets to PCs, servers, and the cloud.