Ubuntu Returns to Gnome as Its Mobile Plans Shatter

Apr 18, 2017

Mark Shuttleworth has resumed the position of CEO of Canonical.

April has been a rough month for Canonical. On April 5, 2017, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth announced that they are abandoning their mobile plans. Shuttleworth wrote in a blog post, “I’m writing to let you know that we will end our investment in Unity8, the phone and convergence shell.”

Ubuntu phones and tablets never really took off. I received a review unit of the device and it lacked core features that a user would expect from a mobile device. Canonical didn’t manage to get big brands on board, and the fate of Ubuntu Mobile was sealed. According to some media reports, Ubuntu mobile devices will stop getting updates after June this year, although Canonical has not released a public advisory. Official Ubuntu Phone and Tablet pages are now showing a 404 error instead of relaying a message about funding the project.

With Unity out of the way, the 18.04 release of Ubuntu will return to a complete Gnome desktop, including the shell. The good news is that an official Gnome flavor of Ubuntu, called Ubuntu Gnome, already exists.

Henceforth, there will be no separate flavor of Ubuntu Gnome. Jeremy Bicha, an Ubuntu Gnome developer wrote in a blog post: “The development teams from both Ubuntu GNOME and Ubuntu Desktop will be merging resources and focusing on a single combined release that provides the best of both GNOME and Ubuntu.”

The Ubuntu Gnome project is working with Canonical teams to figure out how the merging is going to work. It might be prudent for Canonical to move the base of Ubuntu 17.10 to Gnome so that they have enough time to iron out bugs by the the 18.04 long-term release.

Moving back to Gnome might also mean Canonical will adopt Wayland and drop its own display server Mir, but the company has not relayed a message regarding the future of Mir.

In related news, Jane Silber stepped down from the position of CEO of Canonical as Shuttleworth resumes leadership of the company. Canonical also let go of more than 80 employees who were working on projects that Canonical is abandoning.

According to some media outlets, Canonical is seeking outside investors. The Register reported: “These investors determined that Canonical was overstaffed and some projects lacked focus.”

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