Ubuntu At Best Buy?

Wow, this certainly surprised me. Today I found out that Ubuntu Linux is now being sold at Best Buy online and even at some stores. And normally I would say this is great, except there is a problem – what the heck is Ubuntu “complete” edition? To my knowledge, Canonical (owner of the copyrights and trademarks for Ubuntu) never provided any arrangement with ValuSoft. Because if it was true that Canonical had struck a deal with Best Buy, it would potentially overshadow the news we once saw with the Ubuntu/Dell deal.

So how widely available is it? Apparently, it is available in town here in Vancouver, WA – at three stores in the area. This is huge right? Not so fast. Best Buy mysteriously has not listed this in the same category as OS X or Windows. In other words, the OS I run everyday all day is not listed as an operating system. Well, let me correct that. It both is and is not. It is assuming you use the search feature to look for Ubuntu or Linux. But it is not if you browse to operating systems.

Here is where I see the problem. As you can see from the apparent box used, this “Ubuntu” release is going to see its fair share of frustrated users as it is not sharing the fact that Linux behaves very differently than other operating systems. There are some hardware vendors who have worked very hard at ensuring that there will never be Linux support with their products. So many existing notebooks using Broadcom chipsets or odd-ball video/audio chipsets are going to send new users into panic mode fast. Help is on the way through Youtube among other venues, but unfortunately people stumbling upon this Valusoft release will be mislead into thinking that migrating is a snap.

What do you think? Did Valuesoft use Ubuntu without getting trademark permission first or is Canonical trying a covert experiment with marketing while using Valuesoft as a test vendor for distribution? Hit the comments.

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  • http://widgetslab.com Avatar

    The funny thing about Open Source software if you have ever read Miguel Icaza rants about it is that if you repackage Suse or Ubuntu add anything to it, change it tweak it, whatever you can sell it if you can get way with it.

    That is true for pretty much all free Linux distros. the very nature of the Open Source- Free License product makes it possible for me or anyone to repackage it, change it and sell it while still using the brand if this is a Open Source- Free License Software.

    That is not the same for example Suse Enterprise because that does cost something and while it is Open Source. it is not of the Free License kind.

    In the case of ubuntu you could put it in a USB stick, create a recompiled Live CD and add “support” to it and you can sell it. Canonical could challenge you but given the kind or organization they are they would be not only going agast what they entitle but it would prove to be not worth it since they are not a commercial entity does they?…

    i know for a fact that many people live of linux Distros by selling them “with something” even if only a “guarantee of support”

    this is not that widespread known but is the truth. the same can be said about Windows OEM resellers “with support” that promise that whatever they charge for support will be half of what it would have cost them if they had taken the support from Microsoft.

    Fun stuff

  • http://deanlozarie.com/ Dean

    Why are they selling Ubuntu? anyone can download the ISO image free—heck, even request a CD, free of charge as well—from the Ubuntu website. Hmm, I don’t think Canonical’s in on this. Isn’t Ubuntu supposed to be free, and always will be?

  • Dom

    Crikey, maybe it’s a scam? Charging for a free OS is a bit blatant for amazon and bestbuy though…

  • E2001

    I think that if you’re dumb enough to buy a FREE operating system, then you should get what’s coming to you.

    As for “hardware support”… Where’s the profit in supporting linux? Grandma and Little Johnny aren’t going to be able to install the drivers, without spending countless hours in tech support. If I was a chipset maker, I wouldn’t bother with Linux either. It’s a waste of resources, and a customer relations nightmare!

  • Sargetech

    You have a very valid point!!! I think a lot of people who buy this will have issues,because We live in a Microsoft windows world. Not all hardware will work nicely out of the box…Many drivers are only written in windows code….and many are not used to using the terminal ( aka in windows speak….the command line.) Plus many may not understand that you in most cases have to install applications in a different way than in an windows enviorment.
    You have to be on the Geek-Tip to really reap real world benefits….IMHO..

  • jeni

    Ubuntu is a great distibution but it’s a bit hard to work with.

    I feel that people should make an objective decision for themselves after reading the literature at PromotingLinux.com.

  • The Celtic Elf

    Ubuntu is supposed to be *FREE*, I don’t understand how Best Buy and ValuSoft can get away with charging $19.99 for it. I can see charging a nominal fee for it being on a CD instead of having to download it, but I really don’t consider $19.99 a “nominal” fee.

  • http://www.matthartley.com Matt Hartley

    Regarding Linux being free: As long as copyright or trademarks are adhered to, you can sell a Linux distro. Open Office, for any platform encourages it so long as you follow their trademark guidelines. Red Hat and SuSE among others sell Linux all the time. They sell the supported product but also they sell just the distro, on CD/DVD. Again, how can people download, burn to an ISO when they are the types who simply check email and use the web to search sports scores or stocks? Advertising and marketing (responsibly of course) can only serve vs harm.

    Why do people by bottled water? Perceived value, convenience, etc.

    Jeni and Sargetech: As a full time Ubuntu user, I agree 99%. Without a support base, it is difficult to setup for Joe User as XP would be – Vista has improved overall here with out of the box support…but like Linux, it must be “Vista ready” – Linux is do different. Ask Grandma to get the latest video drivers sometime – you will hear crickets and see a blank look. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    But as previously mentioned, it is the ability to discern a match to the user vs it being “Ubuntu being too much for everyone”. I know people in retirement homes using Ubuntu, it’s about a properly setup system – OEM if possible and locked down tight.

    E2001: I hear you, I really do but I must disagree to a point. Here’s why:
    I currently experience easier and better hardware support (overall) than I do with Vista. I do not use problem devices, so for me it is easy – wireless to all-in-one printers.

    As for buying something for free, see my bottled water comment.

    Everyone else: Read Avatar’s comment above – he/she understands how open source economics work, be it that they are still seeing growing pains.

    I have often considered and even talked it over with Pirillo at one point, taking a based on Ubuntu distro, providing all of the hacks and tricks pre-configured already, certifying wireless devices (USB and PCMCIA), webcams among other devices and opening up a business. Current Linux OEMs show the market is there, but it is a lack of time for me at this point. The biggest problem I have as an Ubuntu user is how Linux purists rage against closed source software being used with the platform. I strongly disagree and point to NVIDIA’s ongoing support, along with HP among others.

  • Vadim P.

    @jeni: Quit trolling with your website and posing to be an innocent person. Any technical person will know that the website is a joke / fake, and you’re simply lying to the non-technical users.

    In regards to the article, I failed to find ValuSoft being listed as a Canonical partner, and I’ve never heard of Canonical giving out licenses for official retailers. So while I certainly hope the websites weren’t simply updated yet and this is all good, it is a bit suspicious.

  • bjb_nyj101

    Firstly, Ubuntu is released under the GPL. Therefore, anyone can take it, make any changes that they want, a re-distribute it however they like (including for a profit). They are not really selling the distribution, they are selling the support. I comes with support from ValueSoft (I believe its 60 days)

  • leftystrat

    You bought it, you use it.
    Used to be only Windows that you deserved. Now you can deserve Ubuntu also :)

  • http://www.matthartley.com Matt Hartley

    bjb_nyj101: Speaking as someone who has talked with Canonical in the past about creating something custom. Yes, the “code” is GPL, but there is the Ubuntu trademark. This must be removed or permission must be given to share Ubuntu with the trademark intact.

  • aicra


    I concur with your comments. The question is: Does ValuSoft have the permission to use the trademark?

    I contacted PR at Canonical to find out if there will be any press release regarding this matter.

    ValuSoft and THQ are not listed as a partner in either the Europe or N. America partner pages of Canonical.

    Haven’t heard back from them yet, but this could get interesting.

  • http://www.matthartley.com Matt Hartley

    Based on my research thus far – this was done very quietly but has all the appearances of being legit.


  • http://widgetslab.com Avatar

    Thanks Matt.

    and all mexican male here.


  • http://vadi-blog.com Vadim P.

    jeni, thanks for your contribution to the Troll Cave! http://vadi-blog.com/2008/07/15/the-troll-cave/

  • Uncle B

    Please donate your old boxes to a church-group or some needy student in these hard times! To comply with the law, and with Microsoft’s leasing policy, you can now replace Microsoft OS with the free (download from the net) Ubuntu OS, which can be set to erase the hard drive of all traces of the โ€œillegal to give away โ€ Microsoft system and your private information, before donation! Now, explain to your lucky recipient that all the manuals they will ever need are available for free on the internet! Just ask for them in Google! OpenOffice, which is installed already is plenty adequate for homework assignments and with a little exploring, everything else can work well too! Happy computing!