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Ubuntu Unity is dead; company to shift back to GNOME

Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu and Canonical, announced in a blogpost that the company will end its investment in Unity8.

Published onApril 6, 2017

Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu and Canonical, announced in a blogpost that the company will end its investment in Unity8. Instead, the company will shift its default Ubuntu desktop back to GNOME, just like the early days.

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After six years of using Unity as the default user interface for Ubuntu desktops, Canonical is officially moving back to GNOME. In a blogpost, Shuttleworth stated that it’s appropriate to reassess the company’s initiatives after a successful quarter and that the company will be ending its investment in Unity8. Indeed, this means the development on Ubuntu phones and tablets is also dead. For better or worse.

Ubuntu Unity was the most important piece in Canonical’s convergence project. Similar to the recently-announced Samsung DeX, the company sought to combine smartphones with the traditional PC experience. Except with Unity, there was no docking; everything you needed from a PC was right inside your phone or tablet. The idea was refreshing, but it never gained much mainstream traction unfortunately.

Shuttleworth acknowledges that while the team believed that convergence in a form of free software would be widely appreciated, markets and the software community saw it as fragmentation. In fact, only six devices ever shipped with Ubuntu, so considering the fact that Firefox OS had 26 and still went down, Ubuntu’s fall was probably to be expected. Today’s mobile space is dominated by Android and iOS, and Ubuntu’s end is yet another sign that without a vast array of applications and developers, it’s near impossible to break into a world of strict duopoly.

However, Canonical will continue its work on open source desktop, which will ship with GNOME. And on top of that, as Shuttleworth points out, despite the demise of Ubuntu Unity, its cloud infrastructure is doing well and will continue to be supported:

The number and size of commercial engagements around Ubuntu on cloud and IoT has grown materially and consistently… The choice, ultimately, is to invest in the areas which are contributing to the growth of the company. Those are Ubuntu itself, for desktops, servers and VMs, our cloud infrastructure products, our cloud operations capabilities, and our IoT story in snaps and Ubuntu Core.

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