Ubuntu to abandon its 'One Linux' plans in unprecedented step

Posted Apr 6, 2017 by James Walker
Ubuntu maker Canonical has dropped a bombshell announcement on the Linux community by revealing it is ceasing development of its Unity 8 desktop environment. The move spells the end for Ubuntu Phone and will see the company's 'One Linux' plans abandoned.
Ubuntu Convergence allows apps to scale automatically across platforms
Ubuntu Convergence allows apps to scale automatically across platforms
Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth said the company is making the move to enable it to focus its attention on the Internet of Things and cloud services. It has made the decision to axe support for phone and tablet platforms owing to Ubuntu's pitiable market share and slow rate of progress on these systems.
This makes the demise of Unity no less significant. Unity is the default desktop environment on Ubuntu, the most popular Linux distribution in use. Built from scratch by Canonical, it has always aimed to offer a superior Linux experience on desktop devices. Visually appealing and filled with productivity features, Unity is the interface that has greeted new Ubuntu users for the past eight years.
The upcoming Unity 8 release would have introduced an entirely new look and feel, bringing a level of polish to the Linux desktop more commonly associated with Windows and Mac systems. More importantly, Unity 8 would have realised Canonical's "One Linux" plans and its innovative Convergence feature.
Canonical s Ubuntu Linux-based operating system
Canonical's Ubuntu Linux-based operating system
Convergence allows apps to be written once and scaled across phones, tablets and desktop PCs. It's Canonical's take on Microsoft's Universal Windows Apps and was actually introduced years before Windows 10 was unveiled. If completed, Convergence would enable the same kind of scenarios Windows Continuum and now Samsung DeX have facilitated. Ubuntu devices would be fully interconnected, irrespective of their form factor.
Years after work began, there remain major problems. If Microsoft failed to sustain its mobile growth, Canonical didn't get off the ground. Convergence has no value unless Ubuntu has a notable presence on every supported platform. As it stands, it can only claim that on desktop devices, making Convergence something most people will never know about, let alone use.
Unity also has its issues on PCs. The problem here isn't so much technical as related to the Linux culture. Canonical has always been frowned upon by stalwart Linux users for heading off on its own tangent with Unity. The Linux community is built upon the principles of sharing and contributing to existing projects. Canonical has retained a tight hold on Unity, attracting controversy for allegedly not listening to the community and continuing along its own path.
The Meizu PRO 5 Ubuntu Edition
The Meizu PRO 5 Ubuntu Edition
Canonical / Meizu
Shuttleworth reflected on this in his blog post, noting that few community members accepted Unity's aims as innovation. Somewhat ironically, he also appeared frustrated at how other industry members opted not to use Unity, instead investing in "home-grown platforms." This description would suit many peoples' perceptions of Unity.
"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," said Shuttleworth. "I was wrong on both counts. In the community, our efforts were seen as fragmentation not innovation. And industry has not rallied to the possibility."
The decision to shutter the Unity project has ultimately been made out of commercial considerations. Shuttleworth admitted he remains convinced that convergence is the future, but it's no longer feasible to continue its development.
As Ubuntu continues to see healthy growth in the IoT and cloud sectors, Canonical needs to assign its resources to its success stories. Unity will be going on the shelf and Ubuntu 18.04, the next long-term support version of the OS, will ship with the immensely popular GNOME desktop environment instead.