The ink was barely dry when the Ultimate Linux Newbie Guide wrapped up it’s review of Ubuntu 17.04, which saw us point out that the Unity desktop was surely in trouble, the preview of Unity 8 available in it seeming like Unity 8’s imminent release was as far away now as it has been since they announced they were working on it many moons ago. Purely by accident, Mark Shutleworth, CEO of Canonical LTD, the company behind Ubuntu, said at the same time as the ULNG’s review, that Ubuntu was ditching their own Unity desktop (which they have built into Ubuntu since 2011), and returning to GNOME, where it all began for Ubuntu. Of course, GNOME has seen many changes since then and is well respected an excellent, pretty and usable desktop.
“As we head into the new fiscal year, it’s appropriate to reassess each of our initiatives. I’m writing to let you know that we will end our investment in Unity8, the phone and convergence shell. We will shift our default Ubuntu desktop back to GNOME for Ubuntu 18.04 LTS.”
– Mark Shuttleworth. Founder of Ubuntu and Canonical LTD.
It is presumed that Unity 8 will be dropped, and GNOME be integrated back into Ubuntu with the release of Ubuntu 17.10, however no exact statement was given regarding this.
Ubuntu Mobile also dropped.
Although articulated with some more ambiguity, Mr Shuttleworth also made comment that he was wrong about the direction that he, and by inference, Ubuntu had taken when evaluating the mobile market. What it sounds like, is that Ubuntu could be leaving the mobile (or converged) market for good, with their withdrawal from the Unity product. If this is the case, then that could have wide-reaching ramifications for the chances of open source software platforms on mobile devices in the future:
“I took the view that, if convergence was the future and we could deliver it as free software, that would be widely appreciated both in the free software community and in the technology industry, where there is substantial frustration with the existing, closed, alternatives available to manufacturers. I was wrong on both counts.
In the community, our efforts were seen fragmentation not innovation. And industry has not rallied to the possibility, instead taking a ‘better the devil you know’ approach to those form factors, or investing in home-grown platforms. What the Unity8 team has delivered so far is beautiful, usable and solid, but I respect that markets, and community, ultimately decide which products grow and which disappear.”
Whilst the clarity of what is next for Ubuntu is no doubt being re-assessed, pitching focus perhaps to its IoT and Cloud strategies, it is with great hope that Mark Shuttleworth doesn’t lose faith in a product that brought Linux to the masses with a very usable Linux distribution for the every day user. Ubuntu still stays as a cornerstone of the Linux desktop as it always has been.
The full article from the Ubuntu blog can be read here.