Product definition in an open source environment is challenging. Everything is bid and acceptance is voluntary. In the truest sense of Darwinism products live and die by the activity of their development, acceptance by the user population, or the lack thereof.
Distributions are built like Lego's where communities assemble finished products from a grab bag of kernels which include Linux, BSD, or Solaris and dress them in user interfaces called Gnome, KDE, and XFCE. The final product is cloned and engineered for platforms such as Intel-32, Intel-64, AMD, and PPC. As a testimony to the success of the Ubuntu community, their products have risen to a level where others are leveraging them into their own product lines.
All of these nuances and permutations add to the confusion and marketing chaos.
The world of Ubuntu is really a community which supports various products based on the Linux kernel. It's name sake product is a Linux kernel tailored with a Gnome user interface. Sibling products have evolved supporting the same kernel but different interfaces. In addition, specialty products have risen to support the education and server markets. The community is always in motion, the mix constantly changing and evolving, resulting in the unclear branding of Ubuntu Products.
Ubuntu is a Community of people (referred to as “Community”) and a special blend of Linux mated to the Gnome Desktop (referred to as “Ubuntu Desktop”). Although Kubuntu and Xubuntu are branded in a manner which segregates them from the others, to the new user it may be unclear that Kubuntu is really Ubuntu Linux mated to the KDE Desktop and Xubuntu is really Ubuntu Linux mated to the XFCE Desktop. In addition, branding for Ubuntu Server is absent and the new user may not understand Edubuntu is really the Ubuntu Desktop targeted toward schools and young children.
When we communicate the identity of Ubuntu products it is important the message is received intact and unblemished. In addition, the message must be succinct and delivered without reams of explanation. Failure to obtain these goals will alienate individuals who would otherwise be willing try the Ubuntu Desktop, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Edubuntu, or Ubuntu Linux Server (collectively referred to as “Ubuntu Product”). As the desire of the community is to promote Ubuntu to a wider audience achieving this level of excellence is critical.
B.2 Current Branding Norms
The current branding norms for computer software is as follows.
Owner -> Product -> Category -> Subcategory
Successful software brands:
Microsoft -> Windows -> XP
Oracle -> Database -> 10g
Apple -> Mac -> OSX
Note: Microsoft, Oracle, and Apple are registered brand names.
Applying this pattern to Ubuntu produces the following:
Ubuntu -> Linux -> Gnome Desktop
Ubuntu -> Linux -> Gnome Desktop -> Education
Ubuntu -> Linux -> KDE Desktop
Ubuntu -> Linux -> XFCE Desktop
Ubuntu -> Linux -> Server
B.3 Current branding is discriminatory
The very fact Ubuntu refers to the Community and to the Ubuntu Desktop delivers the message the Ubuntu Desktop is the preferred product. The truth is every Ubuntu Product stands on equal footing and should be presented without prejudice.
B.4 Consistent definition lacking
The Ubuntu Desktop, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, and Edubuntu fail to deliver an accurate and consistent message describing their identity. An individual from the US may interpret the Edubuntu branding correctly and then mistakenly assume Kubuntu is directed toward K12 schools. To the highest degree possible the branding should be culture agnostic.
B.5 Logo synchronization
The Kubuntu and Xubuntu logos do an excellent job blending with the Community logo. However, what is the message? Does Kubuntu coexist harmoniously with the Ubuntu Desktop, or complete against it?
C. Use cases
The Hector Quintero Story
In the chaos which often occurs at the end of a school day, Hector Quintero hung with his friends and talked of the events of the day and other things that came to mind.
“I've switched my computer to Ubuntu”, boasts a friend, “and it is way cool”.
Interrupted by the unexpected arrival of the bus, the crowd begins to disperse and the small talk closes with an abrupt final comment.
“Hector, you should check it out!”
Hector spends a lot time at his PC doing school work and playing games. This Saturday was game day and he was taking a break from a difficult battle scene when he remembered the words of his friend and directs his browser toward the Ubuntu home page. Greeted by smiling faces, he is pleased by the clean professional look and his enthusiasm builds as he peers through the details.
Standing out like the head lines of a daily news paper the words “ubuntu”, “kubuntu”, “xubuntu” catch his attention and spike his curiosity.
“What is this all about?” he questions as he moves closer to his screen.
“Ubuntu is a complete Linux-based operating system ...” states the commentary.
“Linux, wow ... I've heard of that!” he responds.
Driven again by curiosity he clicks the community link.
“The Ubuntu community consist of individuals and teams ...” the editorial begins.
With a puzzle look he leans back in his chair to consider the meaning of that statement.
“I thought Ubuntu referred to the OS, not a group of people?" he murmurs.
Returning to the keyboard with a more distant posture, his eyes engage the screen, his mouse the kubuntu link.
“Kubuntu is a user friendly operating system based on KDE, the K Desktop Environment ...” begins the opening sentence.
“Now I am really confused, I thought Linux was the OS!” states Hector.
Fueled by his frustration the pace quickens as he navigates to the xubuntu page and not really sure of what to expect he begins reading below the headline.
"Xubuntu is a complete GNU/Linux based system with an Ubuntu base ....”
At this point the sounds bites and the head lines have run together blurring their definition and a frustrated Hector grumbles, “and what is an Ubuntu base?”
Pausing to reflect on the answer he chuckles with the response.
“Too much like home work!”
Ubuntu Internet Site
The Hector Quintero Story
- Re-brand Ubuntu Linux Gnome Desktop
- Re-brand Ubuntu Linux KDE Desktop
- Re-brand Ubuntu Linux XFCE Desktop
- Re-brand Ubuntu Linux Server Edition
- Re-brand Ubuntu Linux Education Edition
Scenario # 1
Retain the branding of current products to the highest possible degree.
To illustrate ...
32bit Ubuntu becomes Ubuntu Linux Gnome Desktop - 32bit
64bit Kubuntu becomes Ubuntu Linux KDE Desktop - 64bit
Scenario # 2
Re-brand all products to a new unified structure
To illustrate ...
32bit Ubuntu becomes Ubuntu Linux /g32
64bit Kubuntu becomes Ubuntu Linux /k64
Note: Scenario 1 & 2 are strictly to illustrate the point with the final decision
and brand name to be determined as a deliverable of this project.
- Create an unified branding template for all products
- Apply template to the current products
- Create artwork to reflect new branding, if required
- Create rollout campaign, press releases, etc.
G. Obstacles/Unresolved issues
- Each product team has been involved in the branding of their respected products and there is substantial momentum in the current branding. The constituency of these teams will need to agree and endorse the change.
- The process needs to be mindful of edeavors past and present. There may be Community endorsed initiatives at play which re-branding may harm.
- Ubuntu Book
- Distro Watch
H.1 Project Charter
H.2 Launchpad Specification
I. BoF agenda and discussion
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