Canonical has tried to smooth out many of the issues that have prevented Linux from reaching the mainstream. This attention to detail with a desktop version of Linux contrasts with the focus of the largest sellers of the operating system, Red Hat and Novell. While these companies make desktop versions, they have spent most of their time chasing the big money in data centers. As a result, Ubuntu emerged as a sort of favored nation for those idealistic software developers who viewed themselves as part of a countercultural movement.
"It is the same thing companies like Apple and Google have done well, which is build not just a community but a passionate community," said Ian Murdock, who created an earlier version of Linux called Debian, on which Ubuntu is based.
Mainstream technology companies have taken notice of the enthusiasm around Ubuntu. Dell started to sell PCs and desktops with the software in 2007, and I.B.M. more recently began making Ubuntu the basis of a software package that competes against Windows.