Canonical is giving up on the Unity project, just six years after making it the default user interface on Ubuntu desktops. The switch back to Ubuntu GNOME marks the end of Canonical’s mobile dream, with the company abandoning hopes to create a converged experience with phones acting as desktops.
Mark Shuttleworth, Canonical founder, expalined the move in a blog post:
“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.”
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The Canonical founder went on to shoulder the blame of the unsuccessful forrray into mobile, saying:
“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.”
While praising the efforts of the Unity8 team for their ‘beautiful, usable and solid’ work, Shuttleworth said that the market just simply did not respond to the product. Ubuntu phones and laptops never really hit the mark with makers, carriers or consumers, while software development also seemed to slow. Unity 8 was also never stable enough to become the default on desktop, which still uses Unity 7.
For Canonical, success has been found in the cloud, with Shuttleworth detailing a cloud-heavy future in regards to investment.
“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 (OpenStack and Kubernetes) our cloud operations capabilities (MAAS, LXD, Juju, BootStack), and our IoT story in snaps and Ubuntu Core. All of those have communities, customers, revenue and growth, the ingredients for a great and independent company, with scale and momentum. This is the time for us to ensure, across the board, that we have the fitness and rigour for that path.”