On the Future of Ubuntu

I know I’m a bit late commenting on this news, but it was quite a shock for me, so I was getting my thoughts in order and cooling down.

In the post of Mark Shuttleworth published on the 5th of April he wrote:

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.

A sad piece of news, indeed, because Canonical had their hopes up with the idea of convergence. But the mobile device market is pretty stable nowadays with Android and iOS dominating over all others operating systems, and the convergence was not enough to convince general public to use the Ubuntu Touch-based devices.

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.

As one of the owners of both Ubuntu phone and Ubuntu tablet I can’t help but feel down. There will still be some security updates, and, hopefully, the community will keep on developing new software, but ultimately… there is no future for Ubuntu on mobile devices.

As for Unity desktop, it was the main reason I chose Ubuntu back in the day. I know that many people consider it troublesome and not very stable, but I still like Unity and find it very easy to use. That said, though, I still prefer GNOME over, say, KDE or Xfce and I’m looking forward to see what Ubuntu 18.04 will look like.

In the end I feel a bit confused. Yes, I’m definitely sad about Canonical dropping both convergence and Unity desktop. On the other hand, I still think that the future of Ubuntu is not bleak at all, and this will be a good opportunity to make it not only the most popular Linux distribution there is, but also the best one.

If you are interested, you can read the full post of Mark Shuttleworth here.


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