Following a report from Phoronix, which stated that Canonical probably failed its goal of having 200 million users by the end of 2015, Dustin gathered all the data that he could find and summed it up at the end. It turns out that a large part of the world is using Ubuntu, and there are probably a lot more people out there who use Ubuntu, voluntarily or not.
The discussion was started a while back by Mark Shuttleworth, who estimated that by 2015 there will be 200 million Ubuntu users. He was talking mostly about installed Ubuntu OSes on individual PCs or laptops, but the landscape has changed tremendously since then.
The problem is that there is no obvious way of seeing how many people are using Ubuntu. As Dustin was saying, Canonical doesn't require users to have a live account on their OSes, which means that they can mostly guess. Sure, they could check out how many users connect to the official repos to download updates. It would be a rough estimate, but the company has no need for this kind of data.
Probably more than 1 billion Ubuntu users
Dustin Kirkland has a very fancy job title at Canonical. He is part of Canonical's Ubuntu Product and Strategy team, led by Mark Shuttleworth, and he leads the technical strategy, road map, and life cycle of the Ubuntu Cloud and IoT commercial offerings. So, what he is saying is probably correct.
"And no one can count all of the Ubuntu users in the world! Canonical, unlike Apple, Microsoft, or Google, does not require each user to register their installation of Ubuntu. Of course, you can buy laptops preloaded with Ubuntu from Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Asus. And there are millions of them out there. And you can buy servers powered by Ubuntu from IBM, Dell, HP, Cisco, Lenovo, Quanta, and compatible with the OpenCompute Project," Dustin explained.
He gathered all the numbers he could find, which are available as public record, including servers, Ubuntu deployments in the cloud, Ubuntu phones, and Ubuntu usage by various other companies.
The result is that over a billion people are using Ubuntu today in one form or another, and the vast majority of them isn't probably aware of this fact.