Convergence delayed: Unity 8 wonât be the default desktop in Ubuntu 16.10
Canonicalâs vision of convergenceâa single, highly adaptive environment that spans mobile and desktop usesâhas been delayed yet again. The Unity 8 desktop and Mir display server, which are key to that vision, wonât be used by default in Ubuntu 16.10, according to discussion in the Ubuntu Online Summit.
The state of Unity 8 in Ubuntu 16.04 LTS
With the recent release of Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, Ubuntuâs developers delivered an excellent Linux desktop based on Unity 7 and X.org. But all of its polish doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a traditional desktop that does nothing to advance Canonicalâs convergence goals.
According to Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu 16.04 LTS was once supposed to offer two different variantsâa traditional Ubuntu desktop environment and an âUbuntu Personalâ desktop based on the converged Unity 8 and Mir software. This didnât happen. While you can go out of your way to install the Unity 8 desktop on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, itâs just not ready for the average Linux PC yet. Itâs shipping on Bqâs Ubuntu tablet and Ubuntu phones, but thatâs it.
What’s more, those new Snap packages that are a major feature in Ubuntu 16.04 LTS were actually designed for the Unity 8 desktop. The fact that they’re instead running on Unity 7Â means that Ubuntuâs Snappy security promisesÂ just arenât accurate, as Snap packages arenât capable of providing the full security benefit on the older X11-based X.org server.
Convergence is on track for Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, hopefully
Ideally, Ubuntuâs vision of a converged desktop will arrive, fully baked, in Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, just under two years from now. The Unity 8 session will be available in Ubuntu 16.10, but only as an option. It might finally reach default status by 17.04âmaybe. People who want the traditional desktop can and should just stick with Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, anyway.
It’s interesting to look back at a 2014 blog post from Will Cooke, Canonicalâs Desktop Team manager. In it, he predicts thatÂ Ubuntu 14.04 LTS would provide Unity 8 as an option, and that Unity 8 would become the default desktop environment in Ubuntu 16.04 LTS. Two years later, it seems weâre still looking at the same projected development cycle. For Ubuntu fans who have seen Windows 10 beat Ubuntu to convergence in the form of Continuumâdespite Mark Shuttleworthâs attempt to race Microsoftâitâs a disappointment.