The CEO of the distributor behind the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution said he wants to make the open source operating system competitive with Apple's Mac OS "within two years."
Comparing Linux's uneven market success to date with the meteoric rise enjoyed by Web 2.0 companies such as Craigslist and Facebook, Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth said, "We need the same urgency, immediacy, and elegance as part of the free desktop experience."
Shuttleworth said Canonical has launched a campaign to make that happen. "We are hiring designers, user experience champions, and interaction design visionaries," Shuttleworth said in a blog post Wednesday.
Canonical's ultimate goal, Shuttleworth wrote, is "delivering a user experience that can compete with Apple in two years."
Linux is a computer operating system that was originally developed by Finland's Linus Torvalds. As an open source project, users are free to contribute revisions and improvements to its overseers. The software is also free to download.
Still, Linux remains far outside computing's mainstream. It's used on less than 1% of all desktops, according to market researcher Net Applications. The Mac OS holds an 8% stake, while Microsoft's Windows operating system, with a 90% market share for all versions combined, remains the most popular by far.
Shuttleworth said part of the problem is that Linux's open source roots have led to numerous variations of the OS, a situation that's potentially confusing to would-be users. "Everyone scratches their own itch, how can you possibly make the UI consistent?" he wrote, referring to Linux's user interface.
"I see the lack of consistency as both a weakness ... and as a strength," Shuttleworth continued. "People are free to innovate, and the results are world leading. Our challenge is to get the best of both of those worlds."
Shuttleworth said Canonical will try to boost Linux's fortunes by hiring programmers to work on various desktop-related projects, including X, OpenGL, Gtk, Qt, Gnome, and KDE. "It will be a challenge, but I think it's achievable," he wrote.