After years of working on a user interface designed to run across phones, tablets, and desktop computers, the developers of the Ubuntu operating system have decided to shift focus.

Starting next year, the default desktop environment for Ubuntu will be GNOME rather than Unity.

Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth says the  change will start with the release of Ubuntu 18.04 LTS in April, 2018.

Shuttleworth says the change is about more than the default user interface for desktop users. It’s about focusing on a few things:

  • The company sees desktop, server, virtual machine, cloud, and IoT applications as growth areas, while efforts to move into smartphones and tablets never really panned out in a big way.
  • While Unity was designed for a future where “convergence” was a thing, letting you use your phone as a desktop PC with all the same software you’d expect… Canonical’s development of the desktop environment served to set Ubuntu apart from other GNU/Linux distributions and was “seen as fragmentation not innovation.”

It’s unclear at this point what the shift from Unity to GNOME means for the future of the Ubuntu Phone project.

Update: Ars Technica spoke with a Canonical representative who confirmed that “work on the phone and tablet is also ending.”

While there aren’t many phones or tablets shipping with Ubuntu software, I suspect there are some enthusiasts who have been waiting for the platform to become more robust before picking one up… and the handful of existing users would probably like to know more about Canonical’s plans to support their devices in the future.

I suspect some desktop Ubuntu users will be happy to hear of the change in strategy though. While Unity has gotten more robust in recent years, Canonical’s decision to move from GNOME to Unity was controversial when it took place in 2011. But one of the strengths of Ubuntu and other popular GNU/Linux distributions is that users who don’t like the default desktop environment can usually opt for an alternative.

In fact, Ubuntu GNOME became and official “flavor” of Ubuntu a few years ago. Now it looks like it’ll essentially become the default starting next year.

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12 replies on “Ubuntu 18.04 to feature GNOME desktop by default (DisUnity?)”

  1. I like Unity! 🙁 Guess I’ll have to search for another flavor I like.

  2. I am very happy about this because it will allow Canonical to focus its efforts on the desktop + server which really need it.

    I hope Mir will be abandoned quickly as well and Canonical puts its full weight behind Wayland and starts some serious collaboration with the major Wayland stakeholders.

  3. While I never cared for unity at all personally, I think it’s a shame they’re pulling the big on it (Mir on the other hand…).
    It’s not gonna mean much anyway, since Solus and Budgie exist. By far my favorite distro these days.

  4. I never liked Unity, so I switched to Linux Mint with the MATE desktop instead.

  5. Awww, I love Unity. I am sad now. Guess I’ll live out the year in the best way possible.

  6. I like Unity, especially with my Unity Tweak Tool settings and my current GTK theme. It’s the main reason why I prefer Ubuntu over the alternatives. Anyway, I suppose that Gnome is fine, too, especially for certain GTK themes which don’t work well with Unity.

  7. Wow. I haven’t been following Linux stuff too closely of late so this is a huge surprise for me. I wonder what it means for Wayland and Mir, if anything.
    I never minded unity much and Gnome was OK but seemed like a constantly moving target and in the end not for me. Been on Xfce for a couple years now and have not looked back. Whatever the default is next year or the year after that – unless something really goes off the rails Xfce is the place to be for me.

    1. Agreed…since switching to MX-16 last year, I haven’t felt the need to try anything else. Never understood the Gnome/Unity debate…but there sure was a lot of arguing about it. Glad that’s over.

  8. RedHat does well only supporting Gnome and KDE. Fedora has Gnome and Wayland running well together. I’m glad Ubuntu is being more selective about where it adds value.

  9. I feel disappointed by this decision. I have never liked unity 7, but I very much want to operate ubuntu servers by touch enabled devices more easily. I certainly hope somebody is working on implementing convergence on gnome (or some other ubuntu flavor).

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