It’s with some regret that we are announcing the end of the ShipIt Programme and the CD distributor programme. When we started ShipIt in 2005 broadband was still a marketing promise even in the most connected parts of the most developed nations. We knew that this represented a significant stumbling block to the adoption of a new technology like Ubuntu. So we invested in making the CDs free and freely delivered to anywhere in the world. Since then we have shipped millions of CDs to every country in the world and brought Ubuntu into the lives of millions of individuals, we hope making them a little better.
Technology moves on and as we look at ways to spread Ubuntu further, a CD distribution programme, especially one of that size and delivered in that way, makes less sense. We have been slowly easing back the programme over the last two years to limit the number of CDs per person and the number of times a person could apply for a CD. But for Ubuntu 11.04 you will no longer be able to go to our website and apply for a free CD.
That’s not to say there won’t be CDs. We are going to make large numbers of CDs available to the Ubuntu Local Communities (LoCos) through a shipIt-lite program. We are asking the LoCos, who are much better placed than Canonical in many ways, to find creative ways to get CDs to those that need them. And of course, every single person reading this who has a CD is a potential distributor – it is after all free to copy, modify and redistribute. We will also continue to make the packs available through the store which are sold more or less at cost price (plus shipping).
We also decided to take a look at the CD distributor programme that we have had running for some time. The volume of CDs distributed through this programme is relatively low but the administrative burden for the programme is surprisingly high for Canonical. Of course everyone is still welcome to simply go to the Canonical store and buy and redistribute CDs. All that changes is that there is no need for an official blessing from Canonical and we will no longer list the websites on ubuntu.com. We encourage them to continue to promote Ubuntu and provide this great technology in their local market.
Where’s the money going?
With the removal of the ShipIt programme some may ask what we are going to do with the money we save. Firstly there is still significant cost in CDs for LoCos and those we produce for events and other distribution methods. Soon we will launch a free online trial for Ubuntu using the goodness of the cloud which will be a great first step for Windows users in particular, allowing them to see for themselves the product that so many of us enjoy. Finally, we will we be doing much more this year to reach out to the mainstream markets across the world, to bring Ubuntu to the next wave of users. This great project of ours needs more and different people to come on board so that we can bring free software into everyday computing lives. Onwards and upwards!