Mark Shuttleworth made the controversial decision to move Ubuntu Linux to the Unity interface back in 2010. It's a decision that provoked lots of argument, but with the Ubuntu 13.04 Linux release out this week, Shuttleworth remains confident he is moving in the right direction.
In an exclusive video interview with Datamation, Shuttleworth reflected on the difficult decisions and transitions he has had to make with Ubuntu Linux. Overall Shuttleworth stressed that he deeply cares about the community and its opinions as Ubuntu Linux continues to evolve.
The Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail release is set to be officially available on April 25th. The new Linux distribution will continue the evolution of the Unity desktop interface and provide updated applications. Shuttleworth described the release cycle, which pushes out new Ubuntu releases every six months as, 'performance art'.
"Ubuntu is kind of like performance art, you're building an opera but every six months you have to do a performance," Shuttleworth said. "The curtain will rise no matter what."
With regards to the Unity interface, Shuttleworth said that the core ideas first introduced in 2010 have shown through till today. In his opinion, Unity is now often imitated by other desktop choices.
Though Unity is the core direction for the Linux desktop that Ubuntu 13.04 provides, Ubuntu is all about choice. In addition to the Unity interface, Shuttleworth noted that the GNOME, KDE, LXDE and xFCE interface, among others, are all available to Ubuntu 13.04 users.
In Shuttleworth's opinion, the drama surrounding the move to Unity is overblown, as those users that want to 'pimp' out their own desktop in any way they choose will always be free to do so.
In March of this year, Shuttleworth was on the defensive against critics on multiple fronts, including about the desktop and the concept of rolling releases. At the time, Shuttleworth defended Ubuntu's position on supporting the community and being an open environment for developers and users.
"What's genuinely difficult is that both I and a bunch of people that help make choices, genuinely care about what other people think," Shuttleworth said. "We go through a lot of trouble to accommodate other folks."
In Shuttleworth's view, the nastiest thing that people can do is to set up unnecessary tension.
"Some transitions are very difficult and you're sort of damned if you do and damned if you don't," Shuttleworth said.
He added that there are also competitive dynamics that can give certain people incentive to be nasty about anything that Ubuntu does.
One of those transitions for Ubuntu has been the one to Mir. Ubuntu decided to move away from the Wayland Linux display technology and instead build its own approach, called Mir.
"In the case of Mir, we have done a great deal of work to make sure it works for everybody," Shuttleworth said. "Anybody that makes an issue of it, is probably more interested in making an issue than working the issue."
While Mir is the future of Ubuntu's Linux Display it is not yet part of the main Ubuntu 13.04 release. Mir is, however, the primary display technology enabling the Ubuntu Phone. Shuttleworth first announced the Ubuntu for Phones technology in January as a competitive alternative to iOS and Android.
"Mir gives us a unified wrapper around OpenGL drivers from all sorts of places," Shuttleworth explained. "Mir is a very neutral clean way of doing that."
The plan is for the Phone, Tablet and Desktop releases of Ubuntu to align for the Ubuntu 14.04 release in 2014. It's not yet clear if the Ubuntu TV release will be ready in the same timeframe.
"For phone, tablet and desktop we intend to have one device in 14.04," Shuttleworth said.
With Ubuntu 13.04, there will also be a Kylin release (pronounced Chillin) for the Chinese marketplace.
Kylin is being built by Ubuntu in partnership with the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MII).
"Kylin is a flavor essentially," Shuttleworth explained. "The French community for example, have a edition that does more than just translating strings, it's essentially integrating content and social networks and so on that are local and that's what Kylin is doing on the desktop."
Watch the video interview with Mark Shuttleworth below:
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Datamation and InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.