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Barely a fortnight after Canonical's director of communications Gerry Carr openly lamented the shockingly “low number of pre-loads”, his boss and the most important man in all of Ubuntudom, Mark Shuttleworth, made an extraordinarily implausible prediction in an interview he gave to Business Insider in early April. “We expect to ship close to 20 million PCs in the next year,” he said, as if totally unaware of just how few people buy PCs pre-loaded with Ubuntu (0.1 percent of the total install base).
If something like that does happen, it will be a huge financial shot in the arm for Canonical, but to bank on it would be foolish. Canonical isn’t waiting for the proceeds from all those expected shipments to (pleasantly) inundate its coffers, though. In the meantime, it is going to rely on Amazon affiliate commissions to supplement its income.
Last week, Canonical’s Director of Technology Olli Ries revealed on the ubuntu-devel mailing list that Ubuntu 12.10, scheduled for release in October, will include Amazon search results in the Unity Dash lens. Needless to say, the company will be getting a commission every time a search result leads to an actual sale.
Understandably, the announcement has angered many Ubuntu users, who see the feature as being a privacy and security concern. But Shuttleworth thinks otherwise. On Sunday, the Canonical head honcho wrote a lengthy post on his blog to address their concerns.
“In 12.10 we’ll take the first step of looking both online and locally for possible results,” Shuttleworth wrote. “The Home lens will show you local things like apps and music, as it always has, as well as results from Amazon.”
He does not want people to think of these search results from Amazon as a form of advertisement: “We don’t promote any product or service speculatively, these are not banners or spyware. These are results from underlying scopes, surfaced to the Home lens, because you didn’t narrow the scope to a specific, well scope.”
For those who see this feature as a privacy concern, this is what he wrote: “We are not telling Amazon what you are searching for. Your anonymity is preserved because we handle the query on your behalf. Don’t trust us? Erm, we have root. You do trust us with your data already. You trust us not to screw up on your machine with every update. You trust Debian, and you trust a large swathe of the open source community. And most importantly, you trust us to address it when, being human, we err.”
If you are still not convinced, Shuttleworth suggests that you try limiting your search to the scope you are most interested in by using the hotkey associated with that particular scope (for instance, Super+A for apps, or Super+F for files).
Do you think Shuttleworth has done enough to address the concerns surrounding Amazon’s imminent invasion of Ubuntu’s Home lens, or is this far too big a PR disaster to be mitigated by anything less than a full retreat on Canonical’s part?