Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix Login

Why Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix will be a tough sell

Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix is an edition of Ubuntu Desktop tweaked for use by institutional or business users. It was announced by Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu, in this blog post. The first release is based on Ubuntu 11.10 Desktop Live CD. So what is the difference between it and the end-user desktop Live CD edition?

According to Mark, the business edition “takes the most common changes we’ve observed among institutional users and bundles them into one CD which can be installed directly or used as a basis for further customization.” Those changes include removing “features like music players or games” and adding “components that are a standard part of their business workflow.”

That brings up this question: What is the penetration or adoption rate of Ubuntu Desktop in the business sector? I do not have the numbers, and Canonical has not released any, as far as I know, but given that Mark and Co. have had a rough going trying to persuade PC vendors to pre-load Ubuntu Desktop on personal computers sold to the public, I doubt that the adoption rate is significant. If true (I could be wrong, though), I do not thing that a separate desktop edition for business users will make any difference.

Here are reasons I think so, why Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix will be a tough sell to serious businesses, that is, those serious about protecting their assets and maximizing employee productivity?

Before we get to the reasons, here is the boot menu.
Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix Boot

Now, to the reasons:

  1. Businesses now routinely stipulate that mobile computers (notebooks, ultrabooks, netbooks, etc) issued to employees be secured with full disk encryption. The reason is simple: Full disk encryption protects the data stored on a computer form those not authorized to view or modify it, as happens when the computer is lost or stolen. For example, back in 2009, Intel began deploying full disk encryption on all laptops issued to employees, and within 12 months, 75% of those computers were protected with full disk encryption. I do not have the latest figures, but I am almost certain that it should be 100% today. Besides businesses, full disk encryption has been required on all laptops owned by the Federal government, the US government that is, since 2006 (pdf).

    But the problem with Ubiquity, the installation program of Ubuntu Desktop Live CD, which is the same one on Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix, is that it lacks support for full disk encryption. That is despite popular demand and a campaign by the Electronic Frontier Foundation to bring full disk encryption to Ubuntu Live CD. The only physical security feature supported by Ubiquity, is encryption of the user’s home directory, which in the context of this discussion, is useless. So, until full disk encryption is implemented in Ubiquity, I do not think that major business entities will even consider Ubuntu Desktop or Ubuntu Desktop Business Remix. This screen shot was taken while attempting to install Ubuntu Desktop Business Remix. If you have installed Ubuntu Desktop, it should be familiar to you.
    Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix Install

    Note: In most states in the USA, the law requires that the authorities be notified when a business computer containing personal identification data (social security number, driver’s license number, debit or credit card number, etc) is lost or stolen.

  2. Ok, the second reason might not be a show-stopper, but how many businesses do you think will issue a laptop to employees when the login screen has a guest session enabled? I do not know the answer, but I do know that is one “feature” that many end users want to disable after installing Ubuntu Desktop.
    Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix Login
  3. The final reason is the user interface, the desktop itself. I do not use Ubuntu, but since Unity became the graphical interface on Ubuntu Desktop, there has been an almost endless cry for Canonical to “stop this madness.” But like the developers of GNOME 3, Mark Shuttleworth and Co. have forged ahead, trying to redefine the Linux desktop backwards. Unlike the default GNOME 3 interface, which looks and feels bad no mater how many times you look at it or use it, Unity looks good at a first glance, until you start using it to do serious computing. Then you find out how badly it sucks. That is my experience. Maybe, businesses have had a different take. May be CEO’s have been urging their IT staff to deploy Ubuntu Desktop all over the place. Most of Europe could also be experiencing a heat wave right now. The screen shot below was taken from a new installation of Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix.
    Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix

If you are interested in taking Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix out for a test drive, download an installation ISO image from here. Note: Registration is required, and only a 32-bit edition has been released.

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