[Mark] Shuttleworth wants to give back, by offering universal access to a free operating system to run PCs and servers. The world already has several free versions of the open-source Linux operating system, but Shuttleworths version, called Ubuntu, undercuts them all on price–and works better, according to many respected sources.
Support fees for Ubuntu (translation: humanity to others in a South African Bantu language) are comparable to Red Hats and Novells, but theyre completely voluntary. Some of Google’s (nasdaq: GOOG – news – people ) developers use Ubuntu, for instance, but the company doesn’t pay because it services its own machines. Other users might pay only to support those machines they deem crucial to operations.
Ubuntu now has 4 million users, half of which are governments, universities and a smattering of businesses. It adds new ones at a rate of 8% per month. After its public release in October 2004, Ubuntu quickly deposed Red Hat’s Fedora as the most popular version of Linux on DistroWatch, a Web site that caters to Linux users.