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In the video linked from this blog entry and other Canonical marketing material, it says things like Ubuntu is and always will be Absolutely Free.

What does that mean? Especially considering that Ubuntu and its related products certainly isn't completely free

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Be specific about what isn't free. –  frabjous Oct 28 '10 at 2:15
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It also says "Ubuntu is, and always will be, absolutely free." on ubuntu.com (i.e. on the first page/index of ubuntu.com). –  N.N. Aug 30 '11 at 17:56

4 Answers 4

The core OS of Ubuntu is committed to remaining completely free (financially and freedom wise). It has a repository for partner and non-free software add-ons. Canonical is also enabling optional "pay for" software in the software center. It does not exist in the Ubuntu "Main" repository.

Services like Ubuntu One are merely branded as such for clarity, and their client side software are indeed free. The subscription services that go along with Ubuntu is part of Canonical's business model, which will eventually make the company profitable.

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I think it means that Ubuntu will not be splitted to 2 editions: Enterprise(Full) and Home(Reduced) like RHEL&Fedora, SLED&OpenSuse (or even Win7Ultimate & Win7 Starter)

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Win7 starter is not free, by any means. It's just cheap :-p –  Little Jawa Oct 28 '10 at 5:24
    
Yep, I know that :) –  Extender Oct 28 '10 at 14:38

actually Ubuntu or canonical has a different business model than REDHAT or NOVELL the other two big linux "selling" companies in the software industries... while REDHAT make u pay them to get their "repository" full of software bug-fixed and updated ,,so do NOVELL,, but canonical gives you the software for free in the contrast along with all of their repository.. they on the other hand sell "subscription to service " or what we call paid services..If you are running a business and need continuous service u cant just rely on random community posts or IRCs..u need a time bounded solution to your problems,,,thats why the paid support is there... from business point of view this may not be as productive and profitable as redhat or novell....redhat already reached billion doller revenue...but canonical seems to spread their business in other industries where they can directly be paid and profited by their hardware partner,,,the huge embedded system market ..:) ubuntu for android and the coming ubuntu phone is the direction to new business to this open source leading company..

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This is a good question.

The Free Software Foundation does not include Ubuntu in its list of free GNU/Linux operating systems.

Their reasons are:

Ubuntu provides specific repositories of nonfree software, and Canonical expressly promotes and recommends nonfree software under the Ubuntu name in some of their distribution channels. Ubuntu offers the option to install only free packages, which means it also offers the option to install nonfree packages too. In addition, the version of Linux, the kernel, included in Ubuntu contains firmware blobs.

Ubuntu's trademark policy prohibits commercial redistribution of exact copies of Ubuntu, denying an important freedom.

Don't worry, though! There is a free version of Ubuntu which has actually been endorsed by the FSF: Trisquel.

Trisquel meets all of the FSF guidelines for free system distributions. It is based on Ubuntu but is without the non-free repositories and it uses the Linux-libre kernel. Not so many people know about Trisquel, unfortunately. Tell your friends about it! Try it out yourself.

Trisquel is under active development and has an lively and helpful community.

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