After hectic few weeks on the road I am now back in sunny California, and we had a wonderful Ubuntu Developer Summit in Orlando, Florida. Thanks to everyone who made the event such a success. It was so great to meet so many old friends and to meet the may new friends who experienced UDS for the first time. Looking forward to working with you in the Natty cycle!

At the start of UDS Mark made the announcement that on hardware that supports it, Unity will be shipped as the default environment for Ubuntu 11.04. Since the announcement there has been a lot of commentary and articles about the decision, mostly of the view of “if you folks can pull this off, this will be awesome“. Thanks to everyone for the confidence and support in our community and in Canonical. I know we can make this rock, but we are going to need to pull together to make it happen. Throughout this cycle we are really uniting as a community, and this feeling was electrifying at UDS; there was a real shared sense of opportunity, and I for one am ready to dig my heels in and make this happen. :-)

By and large the commentary since the announcement has reflected the facts, but some articles have got things a little skewed. My view here is simple: I think everyone should be welcome to have their own view on Unity, either supportive or cynical, under the premise that the basis of the discussion reflects the facts and not misinformation.

So, I just wanted to clarify some of the key points regarding the transition to Unity by default in Ubuntu 11.04 to make sure these facts are clearly communicated:

  • Ubuntu is not ditching/forking GNOME – Unity is a shell for GNOME, but not GNOME shell. Ubuntu is still a GNOME platform. 11.04 will ship all the components required for GNOME application authors to have their software run out of the box in Ubuntu, and we will still ship all the GNOME apps you know and love in Ubuntu 11.04. The only change is that Unity will be the default shell. Likewise, this is not a fork: we are not diverging away from GNOME, just producing a different shell in much the same way others have (e.g. Meego). It is just a different porthole looking at the awesome GNOME platform.
  • Unity is the 3D experience, Classic GNOME is the 2D interface – if your graphics hardware cannot sufficiently run Unity, Ubuntu will present the 2D experience which is the two-panel GNOME desktop we currently ship, complete with all the Ayatana improvements such as application indicators, global menu, system indicators etc.
  • Accessibility is a top priority – currently Unity has rather poor accessibility support (read: basically non-existent) and accessibility is a core ethos in Ubuntu. As such, Luke Yelavich has been assigned to the DX team (the folks who code Unity) to work on accessibility support in Unity, and he will be supported by Gary Lasker. In addition to this, we had a great set of meetings at UDS with the Ubuntu Accessibility community team and they are synced up with Luke to help support this work with testing, bug triage, and outreach. Great accessibility is a requirement for Unity if it is to ship in 11.04: let’s pull together to make this happen.
  • Performance is being resolved; porting to Compiz – some of you have experienced poor Unity performance on certain netbooks due to their graphics cards. This has been identified is a core issue to resolve and it is largely due to performance issues in clutter and mutter (the graphics backend for Unity). To resolve this Jason has started work on a Compiz port, and early results (i.e. less than a week of hacking!) have already seen significant performance improvements. He demoed it to some folks on hardware that received the most performance bug reports, and the performance was incredible snappy and slick; it exhibited the kind of responsiveness and animation that you should expect from a high quality experience.
  • Quality is a top priority – Neil and the rest of the Unity team worked off their socks to get Unity read for the 10.10 netbook edition, and despite their best efforts, there were some quality issues highlighted and bug reported. The team believes they have bug reports for the majority of issues, and this cycle they are spending most of their time focusing on resolving these quality issues so as to deliver a top-notch Unity experience. In this cycle I am also going to leading my team to help build community support and contributions around quality too, particularly around highlighting areas in which the community can help resolve and fix issues.
  • GNOME Shell is supported in Ubuntu – although we are not shipping GNOME Shell on the disc and as the default environment for Ubuntu, we believe that users should be able to get a top-notch GNOME Shell experience in Ubuntu. With Ubuntu Software Center providing one-click access to software, getting a GNOME Shell experience up and running should only be a click away. To be clear, Seb and co who work on the Canonical desktop team have limited resources to assist with this effort, but they are keen to ensure we have a great GNOME Shell experience and are happy to work with the community to make this happen. Want to make sure you get a rocking GNOME Shell in Ubuntu? Mail me and let’s see what we can do to make this happen. :-)
  • Unity is an Open Source project – Unity is Free Software and a full Open Source project in which we are going to rely on the community to help make this rock. We are looking for help with design, documentation, translations, development, and more! Curious to see how you can help? See this page for more!

I think those are the main points for clarification. Many thanks for all those who have been helping to ensure the correct information and facts have been clarified in the various commentary happening around the tubes.

Thanks also to everyone who is ready to roll their sleeves up and make this effort rock. I am hugely excited for the Ubuntu 11.04 release, and this is going to be a fun cycle as we all circle around Unity and bring our different skills and diversity of experience and make it the most innovative Ubuntu release yet. Start your engines…

Do you have more questions? Are there some things I have not covered here or want more detail on? Be sure to join my live video Q+A session in which I will answer all your questions! Join us on Wed 3rd Nov 2010 at 11am Pacific / 2pm Eastern / 6pm UTC at this location to get involved. See you then!

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