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Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth: IoT, Ubuntu and the yogurt of the future

Jon Gold | Oct. 20, 2017
"Raspberry Pi plus Ubuntu plus an app makes a huge difference" in the world of IoT, he says.


Canonical founder and CEO Mark Shuttleworth is one of the most prominent people in open source software.

Ubuntu, the GNU/Linux-based operating system that he helped birth in 2004 is now one of the best-known open source projects in the world, accounting for a vast proportion of the Linux VMs in the public cloud and huge numbers of connected devices.

He sat down with Network World Senior Writer Jon Gold to talk about the future of IoT and the evolution of technology.


NW: One thing that's interesting about IoT is that new tech is coming from companies that you wouldn't consider traditional IT vendors.

MS: The thing I personally love about IoT is that it's genuine entrepreneurship - but the thing about IoT is that literally anybody that finds themselves in a particular situation is able to see how taking a small piece of electronics and some software in a particular context to make something better. So that makes it just a lot of fun from an entrepreneurial point of view.


NW: What are the most noteworthy pieces of entrepreneurship you've seen around IoT?

MS: Thermal pumping of yogurt.


NW: Thermal pumping of yogurt.

MS: Yeah, it's not as sleazy as it sounds. If you've ever seen yogurt, it has a little film of water on top of it - the yogurt's fine, it's just that temperature variations in transit or wherever have essentially squeezed the water out of the jelly. And the net effect is yogurt that people are more inclined to think has turned, and it gets wasted.

If you imagine an economy with 300 million people eating yogurt, it turns into an enormous amount of waste and, therefore, a nice big opportunity for someone who can put the right device in the right place at the right time and line up all the pieces.


NW: I have to be honest, this is not what I imagined we were going to talk about.

MS: Exactly! For me, it's just an example of the contrast with the other half of the house - in the cloud space, we're working with Google, Amazon, Netflix, Uber - a lot of the guys who are thinking of global operations. But that's completely abstract - it's hundreds of thousands of VMs running containers for fractions of a second...


NW: Sort of a ghost data center.

MS: Exactly so. As a result, it's the domain of a very few people, who compete ferociously with the idea that, in the back of their minds, the winner takes all. And that pays the bills for us. ... but in IoT, what I love about it is that it's literally real people looking at a real problem and thinking how, like, Raspberry Pi plus Ubuntu plus an app makes a huge difference. They're not competing with Google, they're not waking up every day thinking, "How do I get a billion dollars out of Silicon Valley?" But it's real, and it's real money, too - millionaires will be minted this way, and they'll deserve it, and their stories are interesting.


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