In a surprise announcement Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu and Canonical, has confirmed that they will be dropping Unity 8 from the next long term release and that Ubuntu is ending its smartphone ambitions. Ubuntu and Canonical will end all investment in Unity 8, Mir and their phone/tablet based OS. Instead tbe 18.04 LTS will use GNOME as its default desktop environment.
While Mr Shuttleworth has confirmed that Unity 8 will be dropped he reaffirmed his “ongoing passion for, investment in, and commitment to, the Ubuntu desktop that millions rely upon” as well as confirming that Ubuntu will continue to provide support for their existing LTS that use Unity 7 by default.
The move seems to be financially motivated as Canonical seeks to shift its resources into productive areas. Shuttleworth explains that they invested in Ubuntu phone because they felt that there was “substantial” frustration with the existing closed options open to manufacturers. As such they took the view that if “convergence” was the future that disillusioned manufacturers and smartphone users would welcome a free open source alternative with open arms. Unfortunately the industry seemed to think differently, preferring to rely on existing software or produce their own. As such, despite being “beautiful, usable and solid” Unity8 will not see the light of day
So, Ubuntu and Canonical have cut support for unity 8 and their smartphone ambitions. Where do they want to shift these now uncommitted funds? It looks like they want to focus on areas that are already growing. Particularly; their cloud infrastructure projects, Ubuntu for the Internet of things and of course the Ubuntu desktop itself.
The move signals a shift away from the long-term strategy of convergence that Ubuntu has been following and a shift towards more focused development. Sadly, the Ubuntu phone is a casualty in this priority-shift. Those of us who are tired of being forced to use Apple, Google or Microsoft will have to wait a little longer for a way out it seems.