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Why Did Ubuntu Drop Unity? Mark Shuttleworth Explains (omgubuntu.co.uk) 215

Ubuntu's decision to ditch Unity took many of us by surprise earlier this year. Now Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth shares more details about why Ubuntu chose to drop Unity. From a report: Shuttleworth says he, along with the other 'leads' at Canonical, came to a consensual view that they should put the company on the path to becoming a public company. And to appear attractive to potential investors the company has to focus on its areas of profitability -- something Unity, Ubuntu phone, Unity 8 and convergence were not part of: "[The decision] meant that we couldn't have on our books (effectively) very substantial projects which clearly have no commercial angle to them at all. It doesn't mean that we would consider changing the terms of Ubuntu for example, because it's foundational to everything we do. And we don't have to, effectively," he said. Money may have meant Unity's demise but the wider Ubuntu project is in rude health. as Shuttleworth explains: "One of the things I'm most proud of is in the last 7 years is that Ubuntu itself became completely sustainable. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and Ubuntu could continue. It's kind of magical, right? Here's a platform that is a world class enterprise platform, that's completely freely available, and yet it is sustainable. Jane Silber is largely to thank for that." While it's all-too-easy for desktop users to focus on, well, the desktop, there is far more to Canonical (the company) than the 6-monthly releases we look forward to. Losing Unity may have been a big blow for desktop users but it helped to balance other parts of the company: "There are huge possibilities for us in the enterprise beyond that, in terms of really defining how cloud infrastructure is built, how cloud applications are operated, and so on. And, in IoT, looking at that next wave of possibility, innovators creating stuff on IoT. And all of that is ample for us to essentially put ourselves on course to IPO around that." Dropping Unity wasn't easy for Mark, though: "We had this big chunk of work, which was Unity, which I really loved. I think the engineering of Unity 8 was pretty spectacularly good, and the deep ideas of how you bring these different form factors together was pretty beautiful.
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Why Did Ubuntu Drop Unity? Mark Shuttleworth Explains

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  • It's a shame (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Harold Halloway ( 1047486 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2017 @02:04PM (#55425419)

    I was happily using Ubuntu until 17.10. Gnome desktop scaling is very primitive compared to Unity and made my small hi-res screen look awful at 125% and 150% scaling. So I've gone back to Windows 10, which is a shame really.

    • A shame, but what about KDE Plasma 5.x? Does it scale well?

    • Re:It's a shame (Score:4, Informative)

      by AirFrame ( 125653 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2017 @02:21PM (#55425529) Homepage

      As someone using an HP Spectre X360 13" laptop (1920x1080 screen) with a 27" Samsung 4K monitor, I can happily say that desktop scaling sucked *ss on Unity and has merely switched to sucking the dog's bollocks under Gnome. Either way, you'll be left with a bad taste in your mouth.

      Windows 10 can somehow figure out if i'm using my laptop with a 4k 27" screen, or with a 1600x1200 21" screen (I have the 21" at work). Once logged in, the scaling matches between both screens. It "just works". Ubuntu has *never* done this, on any screen setup i've had.

      25 years with Linux, however, and i'm not giving up now...

      • Re:It's a shame (Score:5, Informative)

        by DeBaas ( 470886 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2017 @02:39PM (#55425645) Homepage

        In my experience Linux Mint with Cinnamon scales well.
        The only thing is that on my dual monitor setup with one 4k screen (4096x2160) and another at 1900x1200 the 1900x1200 uses the same scaling (so too large). That's where Win 10k wins as it manages to scale only the 4k and keep the other screen 'unscaled'
        Other than that, Cinnamon does a good job IMO

      • Windows 10 can somehow figure out if i'm using my laptop with a 4k 27" screen, or with a 1600x1200 21" screen (I have the 21" at work). Once logged in, the scaling matches between both screens. It "just works". Ubuntu has *never* done this, on any screen setup i've had.

        Windows used to be fucking terrible at this and the only one that seemed to do a good job of it was OSX but Windows 10 certainly does seem to have gotten it sorted for the most part, obviously the various application GUI frameworks makes it somewhat more challenging but it's getting better and better. Still haven't found a Linux DWM that handles this well (perhaps there is one though?), though then there is the problem of even more GUI frameworks on Linux than there are on Windows or Mac.

      • Try using it with multiple screens on a Surface Book and watch it get very confused

    • Re:It's a shame (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2017 @02:23PM (#55425551) Homepage Journal
      Imagine if, rather than creating a whole new desktop environment, they'd just improved Gnome's scaling.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      I was happily using Ubuntu until 17.10. Gnome desktop scaling is very primitive compared to Unity and made my small hi-res screen look awful at 125% and 150% scaling. So I've gone back to Windows 10...

      There are plenty of Ubuntu-derived distros using other DEs. Did you try any of them? Completely dropping Linux because of a lack of Unity seems a bit extreme.

    • Yep I'm very disappointed with 17.10 dual / hybrid GPU supported is now completely fucked and worked perfectly before. XPS15 (9530) I too find the scaling options poor and the touchscreen support is patchy at best. Worst Ubuntu release in years.

  • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2017 @02:04PM (#55425423)

    Something, something, systemd.

  • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2017 @02:10PM (#55425461)

    So Ubuntu Phone was an unmitigated commercial flop (as was Ubuntu on the TV). Ubuntu as a supported desktop OS is just not a prospect anyone is about to pay for.

    So they can trumpet their share of cloud instances. That's a nice looking metric for them sure enough, but the whole reason is because they are the no-fuss no-cost option. It has not translated to people paying Canonical for much as of yet. They have been trying to drive this up from the instances to the infrastructure where there *could* be some consulting money to be had, but that has not been a huge commercial success as of yet.

    Similarly, they can court IoT, but again we are talking about companies that shave every last fraction of a cent possible from their cost, volumes are extremely high and any cost is not tolerated. Popularity comes by being the no cost option. You may say 'quality', but that random ass yocto build you cobbled together seems good enough, fits in your memory footprint, and without paying anyone to do it for you. Sure your home grown is crap and will probably bite you in the ass down the road, but every penny counts and your device is probably going to just be rebadged as needed by other companies, so you don't even have much of a reputation to protect, statistically speaking of IoT device makers.

    Despite some respectable technical effort and good judgement about what is and is not appropriate in a release cycle, as a business endeavor I think they are deeply challenged to find an 'in'.

    • It's going to be fun when they try to explain Mir.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Ubuntu as a supported desktop OS is just not a prospect anyone is about to pay for. (...) So they can trumpet their share of cloud instances. That's a nice looking metric for them sure enough, but the whole reason is because they are the no-fuss no-cost option. It has not translated to people paying Canonical for much as of yet.

      So... good for the desktop? I mean Red Hat found their thing and unceremoniously dropped Red Hat Linux (their non-enterprise desktop offering) for a community testbed. As long as Canonical hasn't found its thing they need Ubuntu as marketing, almost every Linux user knows it even if it's not their daily driver. If they become "the cloud distro" and all their paying customers will use it for that anyway they don't need the desktop. Then they could just let Mint, Elementary or openSUSE take over or do a Fedor

      • According to http://distrowatch.com/ [distrowatch.com] Mint is already way more popular than ubuntu on the desktop. They are struggling hard to try to find some way to monetize and make proprietary an already free eco system. In my experience, an Ubuntu user is synonymous with someone not understanding anything about Linux but they "heard it was good/easy." What they really need is a backroom deal with some OEM to start pushing their specific repackaging onto machines first-sale. Ubuntu as a server is a joke, and Red Hat alr
        • Uhm, not sure why anybody needs Red Hat to officially support a distribution. We only pay $365 per year to get security updates.

          Kind of a strong arm between a vendor that only supports Red Hat, and RedHat charging for what Microsoft provides for "free". I doubt we are paying $365 per year per server for Windows Server licensing.

          Otherwise I would have run Ubuntu or CentOS. I prefer Ubuntu, more familiar with it.
          • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

            Unless you hire away Red Hat devs to be your support team, you're going to get better and cheaper support if you pay Red Hat instead of paying employee salaries. Some companies using Red Hat (or SLES) have a few thousand servers to support. They don't want to waste time on someone who messes around with RHES or SLES in their spare time. They want the experts.

        • Distrowatch is not a measure of popularity. It's a measure of how many people on their site haven't heard of a particular distro but are curious to read about it.

        • There's a desktop variant of RHEL - called WS. Did you think "enterprise" implied "on a server"?

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      If pay a few bucks for Ubuntu if it wasn't shit. I'd love to get off Windows, I'm happy to pay for it, but basic stuff like the mouse and scaling have to work.

  • by JoeDuncan ( 874519 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2017 @02:44PM (#55425681)
    ... and everyone jumped ship to Linux Mint the instant Ubuntu started using it?
    • Modded *down*??? Are you kidding me?

      Apparently there's an Ubuntu shill out there with mod points - lol!

    • The metaphors are non obvious. Canonical tried a bold experiment but most would seem content with a traditional taskbar/system tray inherited from Windows 95.

      No menu bar and an app bar that isn't hierarchical. And swiping from sides of a screen to get various elements to show. Fine if you like autohide on Windows, I personally do not.

      I flashed Ubuntu Touch from ubports.com recently. Unity 8 is supposed to be designed for phones but it feels weird there too. They might have had more success if they ditched U

  • Kind of obvious (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2017 @02:56PM (#55425761)
    Unity and Mir were an attempt to own a large chunk of the display stack. Made in preparation for when Ubuntu for tablets, phones came out, Ubuntu could release software under a proprietary Canonical licence while their competitors were forced to release under an onerous GPLv3 or pay Canonical not to do so. That's primarily why Intel pulled their support from Mir because their contributions benefited Canonical more than themselves. It's also why Canonical had to take on the burden of making things like GTK, QT work with their software because nobody else in open source was going to help them. And then the mobile plans went nowhere.

    So these projects eventually became a money pit and the sensible thing was to dump them. The really sensible thing would have been to not start them in the first place, but I guess we should be thankful again that Ubuntu Linux is converging again instead of diverging.

  • And I like it. Unity was OK, but not great. They could always let Unity fork and let the community maintain it. As fare as desktop usability went, Unity wasn't all that great, but it was usable. I'm more disappointed by Ubuntu's move to become yet another (*yawn*) dysfunctional public company. That's really too bad.
  • Touch centric (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rtkluttz ( 244325 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2017 @03:56PM (#55426093) Homepage

    Still sucks balls for real work even after all this time. Both unity and gnome 3 are still absolutely horrible for a real workstation that you sit in front of all day. I'm sorry, but the touch gui people who insist that 5-7 years worth of work can even come close to what mouse and keyboard have evolved and matured into after 40 years? How arrogant can you get? Even newer technologies like voice are going to fail in a real working environment. Its mouse and keyboard for anyone until a true neural interface is working. That will be the only things that tops 40 years worth of experimentation and on the job R&D that mouse/keyboard has seen.

    • Sounds like you never used Unity. Unity is not touch centric. Indeed, is the best DE for a keyboard user. No related to Gnome 3 touch UI at all.
  • Simple enough (Score:5, Informative)

    by Zo0ok ( 209803 ) on Tuesday October 24, 2017 @04:06PM (#55426181) Homepage

    I have been using Xubuntu since many years, and on a few occations Lubuntu (when hardware has been limited).

    Windows is not getting more advanced as a "Window Manager" or a "Desktop". Neither is Mac OS X.
    Xubuntu used to come with the "Dock" activated by default, now it is not.

    Isn't it quite clear that simplicity is the way to go? Some kind of "start menu" for launching applications. Some way to switch between open applications. Some place to display clock and wifi status. And for those who want, drives/folders/files. And search.

    Basically Windows NT4 and Mac OS 6 looked like this, and for good reasons.

    More advanced Gnome, KDE or anything else seem to have very little purpose and audience.

  • ... and everyone jumped ship to Linux Mint the instant Ubuntu started using it?

    Posting again since the first post was modded down by an Ubuntu shill with mod pts...

    Got any more buddy?

  • by jgfenix ( 2584513 ) on Wednesday October 25, 2017 @02:20AM (#55428393)

    Even if Red Hat is the main contributor or hire the main developers of some open source projects there are many "external" contributions. Canonical didnt take advantage of this because they wanted to control everything. Those projects didnt have to be a money sink.

    Red Hat know how to benefit from the community the most. Thats the biggest difference between them.

  • In comparison to Unity there is a lot of stuff not working on gnome, like power management and hibernation.

  • Better discussion would be how does Canonical plan to be enterprise successful? Dropping UNITY is just a distraction. The meat is how Canonical plans to differentiate itself from RedHat. When talking investors, desktop isn't where it's at with profits. It's enterprise solutions and professional services. So, where are these articles?
  • Sorry Mark, I do not share your enthusiasm for bringing form factors together, instead I regard that idea as a blight that has made both large and small form factors worse, especially the large form factor where I spend the bulk of my actual productive time.

    Well, here I am, back to Debian and it feels good. Silver lining: it appears that competition with Ubuntu made Debian stronger, thanks for that.

    • Oh wait, I just realized this article needs a car analogy. We should bring bicycle, sedan and semitrailer form factors closer together! Chew on it, Mark.

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