Ubuntu 11.10 Beta and Unity: Mixed Verdict: Page 2

With the beta release, we can start to judge Unity as a mature product -- and the verdict is decidedly mixed.
Posted September 13, 2011

Bruce Byfield

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Unlike Bacon, I suspect that users are more likely to be bewildered when they discover this arrangement, rather than delighting in exploring and discovering in the middle of trying to get their work. Even when you know how to summon the buttons and menus, the arrangement is still inefficient, because you either have to touch the title bar blindly before making a selection, or else guess where the item you want is likely to be.

In such cases, Unity seems to fall short of the ease of use and performance that Shuttleworth identifies as a goal. In fact, touches like these make me think that visual style pre-dominates in Unity at the expense of other goals, to the point where the effort is self-defeating.

Reaching a Verdict

In the end, the beta leaves me wondering: has Unity been worth the year or more of concentrated effort lavished upon it?

The effort has by no means been a complete failure. As a desktop for everyday use, Unity seems adequate. Certainly in my experience, more people prefer Unity to GNOME 3.

Yet, if Unity doesn't inspire widespread revulsion, it doesn't provoke any widespread loyalty or excitement, either. Like GNOME 3, it tends to restrict users to a work flow that the designers think they should use, and is particularly limiting to experienced users who might want to do a variety of tasks that go beyond productivity.

To make matters worse, Ubuntu's decision makers continue to seem drunk on their discovery of design issues, focusing on the visual appeal at the expense of functionality, and spending time on minute issues that average users are likely either to miss or stumble upon by accident.

For these reasons, I have to question whether the development of Unity has been worth the effort spent upon it. What would have happened, I wonder, if Ubuntu had managed to keep working with GNOME? Or continued working with its own GNOME 2 series to provide incremental improvements?

We'll never know, of course. Yet I can't help thinking that, in either case, Ubuntu would be further ahead than it is today. So far as the end user is concerned, Ocelot, with its emphasis on buffing and polishing Unity, seems to be shaping up to be one of the least significant Ubuntu releases ever.

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Tags: Linux, Ubuntu, Unity

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