As a larger open community we are running headlong into a crisis with web services. Shuttleworth is one of the most outspoken proponents of the deeply integrated network services into the desktop experience and I'm not sure he's articulated whether or not open services are important in his vision.
Are open desktop clients important to you? Virtual bridges doesn't have an open client as far as I can tell. Are open network API's important to you? Virtual Bridges doesn't have an open API as far as I can tell. Are open server codebases running on your linux servers important to you? Virtual Bridges has a closed one.
If more and more traditional desktop functionality is going to be served to us over the network, via a set of services that are themselves proprietary via closed APIs and closed server and client codebases, we as users and developers will be losing significant benefits because the access to the codebases which enable those network services will not be open for us. This is going to be a problem, especially when the CEO of a major linux distribution company appears to be pushing hard for exactly this sort of future of proprietary network services.
Now if you don't believe that continued access to the sourcecode is fundamentally important to how this linux ecosystem works then you won't share my concerns. You will most likely happily fork over cash for the Virtual Bridges technology to get the gratis IBM Lotus software, and run a virtualized Ubuntu desktop to get access to that suite. This bundle exactly targets those people who do not value the openness of Ubuntu and just care about cost. The deal sweetener..the Lotus application suite...is the most valuable portion of the bundle in terms of retail cost. Take that away, and would this be a compelling offer? Would people buy Ubuntu virtualized over Virtual Bridges without the free Lotus suite? Canonical as a business does have to make money.. and this sneaky $10 a user support fee is a way to do it. If the support fee was optional instead of mandated in the bundle cost to get the free Lotus application suite, would people pay for the "per user" support?
The customers can do the math. $10 to Canonical for support they don't need..to get $200+ proprietary IBM software for gratis. There is immense cleverness in this bundle with regard to how IBM is giving away its normally expensive Lotus software, while at the same time strong arming people into paying something for what is normally an optional Canonical support offering. Essentially IBM takes a loss and Canonical is ensured a revenue stream. It's almost like watching IBM hand money to Canonical to keep its business afloat...almost. If you want Lotus this is a really good deal. If you want Ubuntu, but don't care about Lotus...maybe not if you don't need the Canonical support.
But if you do share my concern about the future openness of deeply integrated network services, then you should encourage Canonical to find a way to build a competing technology that replaces the Virtual Bridges remote proprietary tech. This may even be something the Ubuntu community can take a lead in, and show Canonical there is a better open way to handle this sort of remote desktop service with open tech. Coupling FreeNX with KVM virtualization seems like an obvious place to start as a replacement to Virtual Bridges server and client code.
It would feel a whole lot better if Canonical made it clear that they were doing this bundle now as a stop-gap measure, while also working in parallel to bring up an open remote virtualized desktop technology.
I wonder if the bundling agreement Canonical/IBM/Virtual Bridges share includes a non-compete clause which would prevent Canonical from working on an open solution to the Virtual Bridges problem. Even if there is, the volunteer Ubuntu community is probably not constrained in exploring a Virtual Bridges alternative and making it available in universe.