Canonical picks open-source leader for COO

When Mark Shuttleworth, CEO of Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, stepped down and former COO (chief operating officer) Jane Silber moved up, there was concern that the popular Linux company might suffer from a lack of corporate leadership. Worry no more. Open-source industry veteran and leader Matt Asay has joined Canonical as its new COO.

As the COO, Asay's job will be make sure operational activities match up to the company's strategic goals and make sure that day-to-day operations go smoothly. He will also head up Canonical's marketing.

Asay is extremely well known and respected in open-source business and technology circles. His career started with Linux in the 1990s when he was general manager at Lineo, an early embedded Linux software company. From there, he moved to Novell, where he helped the company move toward Linux, and move open-source away from its proprietary NetWare operating system.

Most recently, Asay has been a VP for Alfresco, the prominent open-source CMS (content management system) company. In 2003, he also founded the Open Source Business Conference, a respected business Linux and open-source trade show. Asay is also well known for his open-source blog, The Open Road, and he doesn't plan on pulling back from it despite his new job.

In a statement, Silber said, "As more companies and people are embracing Ubuntu for their day-to-day computing, we felt it critical to bring in a person who knew not just open source, but has a long experience in making Linux relevant to businesses and users alike. We think Matt brings to Canonical the perfect blend of industry, executive and community savvy."

She's not the only one who thinks that Asay will make a great match for Canonical. Jay Lyman, an open-source analysis for The 451 Group, told me, "I think this is a big move for both Canonical and for Matt. There seemed to be a lot of concern when it was announced last year that Mark Shuttleworth would be stepping away from the CEO role, but those of use who knew the company were aware this had been under way for some time. Still, it hurts to lose someone such as Mark as the focal point or figure head for a company. Getting Matt Asay, a well-established thought leader in open source software, as COO gives them back some of that prominence they lost, as well as greater North American presence, perhaps. Matt's experience in the industry, at Novell and most recently at Alfresco should serve both him and Canonical well.

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