I certainly don't want to be an apologist for Ubuntu, although I do use it myself. But I
think comparing them to Red Hat etc. is not really fair: although the total userbase of Ubuntu
is quite impressive, the number of paying customers for Canonical has got to be a very small
fraction of what a company like Red Hat has. Thus, Red Hat has a viable positive cash flow
and can afford to fund this kind of development... indeed, that's exactly why people pay them!
Canonical is still being floated by Shuttleworth's fortune (as he's stated recently) and
simply doesn't have the resources to spend.
That said, I do think Shuttleworth's chest-pounding given Ubuntu's position is unfortunate and
ill-advised... if not outright false. They do some things better than anyone else but they
have a long way to go to catch up to Red Hat, SuSE, etc. in other areas.
Finally, I think some here are being too hard on Ubuntu. They do create new technology and
they do publish it. Upstart was already mentioned as an example. They also have Launchpad
which, whatever you think of it, has some very nice features. I do have to say that most bugs
I file with Ubuntu ARE pushed up-stream. That process is getting much better IMO.
And finally, Ubuntu brings something to the GNU/Linux community which is extremely difficult
to create and also impossible to quantify: opportunity and marketing, and a kind of "average
user legitimacy". I know that virtually all the technology in Ubuntu was there before and/or
was provided by someone else, but putting it together to create that "buzz" and really
concentrating on growing the user base and what that takes is a big task. While it's not a
technical achievement, it's very hard to do and that success DOES help every GNU/Linux user
and distribution. As technologists too often we base all our opinions on measurable criteria
such as number of bugs fixed, changes merged, etc. but there are other yardsticks that are
important as well.