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"Everybody has the things they want to work on," Shuttleworth said. "I think it's a little tasteless for folks who work for competitors to jump up and down and say that Canonical doesn't contribute. I find that bizarre."
Shuttleworth spent $20 million to become a space tourist in 2002, but hasn't ponied up $200 for a smartphone.
"I'm the last of the non-smartphone holdouts," Shuttleworth said. "Someone described my phone as being designed not to get stolen."
For the record, Shuttleworth said it's an "old Nokia" phone. Shuttleworth considered getting the iPhone but was put off by Apple's antenna problem. While he's curious to see what the iPhone 5 will look like, he's more intrigued by the Android-based Motorola Atrix, which turns into a laptop when plugged into a dock. He remains undecided on the iPhone vs. Android question, but said of the Atrix: "I think that's the most interesting form factor right now."
Lest you think Shuttleworth is depriving himself, he does own an iPad 2, which he uses mostly for casual Web browsing.
Speaking of the iPad, Shuttleworth spends much of his time fending off questions about when Canonical and partner hardware companies will release a proper Ubuntu tablet. The Ubuntu interface is now more touchscreen-friendly than ever, and some people have shoehorned Ubuntu onto tablets designed to run specific applications, he said.
But there is no official Ubuntu tablet "because Unity as it is right now is not a tablet interface," Shuttleworth said. "The applications easily accessible to Ubuntu are not tablet apps. It would be misrepresenting it to suggest otherwise."
Canonical has embraced the Qt framework, which has multi-touch capabilities. But Shuttleworth did not provide any timeline for an Ubuntu tablet.
Clearly, Shuttleworth the iPad buyer is an open source guy who doesn't mind using some products from proprietary companies.
"It's good to know what everybody else is doing, when the state of the art is elsewhere," he said. "And also because I think if we want free software to become the de facto standard, we have to get a whole bunch of different things right. We have to be really good at working in heterogeneous environment because the road to a free software world has proprietary software all the way along it."
"Banging an ideological drum" isn't the way to convince the majority of developers to write for free software environments and release software under the GPL, he said. "Those aren't ideological problems. Those are practical and economic problems."
The elephant in the room for open source advocates has long been Microsoft. But Shuttleworth takes a measured tone toward Redmond, even complementing what he called "really exciting ideas" in Windows 8.