Ubuntu has come a long way since it's first circle of friends.
Once upon a time I knew exactly what Ubuntu was. Built on top of Debian Linux, it was the most popular Linux desktop around. Today, Ubuntu is in the clouds, on servers, tablets and smartphones, and, oh yes, it's still on the desktop. By spreading its energy in so many directions it's hard to see what Canonical, Ubuntu's parent company, really wants from Ubuntu. So what exactly is Ubuntu today? Well, here's my overview of Ubuntu 2012.
That's because Ubuntu switched its interface from the popular GNOME 2.x style desktop to the more beginner friendly Unity interface. Now, Ubuntu is getting ready to switch its interface again to an even more entry-level user friendly interface: Head-Up Display (HUD).
At the same time, Ubuntu has decided to abandon its KDE Linux distribution: Kubuntu. Kubuntu will still be around, as Kubuntu developer Jonathan Riddell wrote but "in the same way as the other community flavors such as Edubuntu, Lubuntu, and Xubuntu." That is to say, Ubuntu will supply software resources but no developer funding to keep Kubuntu afloat.
This comes as no surprise since, as Riddell admits, "it has not taken over the world commercially and shows no immediate signs of doing so despite awesome successes." So moving forward, Ubuntu is now fully committed to only its GNOME-based HUD interface.
Some users object to these proprietary programs, but Mark Shuttleworth, Canonical's founder, defends this move. Shuttleworth wrote, "Everything in the remix is available from the standard Software Centre. ... No secret sauce for customers only; we're not creating a RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux), we already have an enterprise-quality release cadence called LTS (Long Term Support) and we like it just the way it is. This is a convenience for anyone who wants it. Having a common starting point, or booting straight into a business-oriented image makes it easier for institutional users to evaluate Ubuntu Desktop for their specific needs."
These changes have lead many long time Ubuntu users to switch to Linux Mint, with its new GNOME 2.x style Cinnamon interface. That said, Ubuntu still remains popular with many users as its recently showing as top desktop distribution on the LinuxQuestions annual user survey shows. My question is, as Canonical divides its attention in so many other directions will it be able to keep its popularity
This is all well and good. I can see Unity making a fine tablet or TV interface. I can also see Unity/HUD becoming a popular interface for the desktop. I know people who want to get their hands dirty with Linux's controls don't care for it, but then Mac OS X has shown that there are far more users who want an easy-to-user interface than know the ins and outs of, in Apple's case, BSD Unix. I can also see Ubuntu continuing to do well on the cloud. I'm not at all sure it can make great gains on the small business or enterprise server space.
But, and here's where I come to a problem, I don't know that Canonical can execute all these plans at once. Dropping Kubuntu, whle painful to some users, was a smart move. Still, the company isn't that large to begin with and it's recently undergone a major reorganization. Individually I see most of these changes as being for the best. Collectively though... I don't know. I fear Canonical has bitten off more than it can chew. What do you think?