Ubuntu 11.04, codenamed Natty Narwhal, was released. Being honest, the world didn't stop.
Yes, the Ubuntu Linux community and development company Canonical in particular, cares a lot. The 11.04 release is a radical overhaul of this free Linux distribution, featuring the Unity desktop launcher. The Ubuntu community is split between the lovers and haters - like Marmite, nobody goes with indifference. The rest of the Linux world watches with interest to see how it is received.
Many of the rival distributions are lining up the Gnome 3 Shell as it's similar-but-different user interface (Fedora 15 already has this). The rest of them, running classic Gnome desktop, Xfce, KDE, OpenBox and others, have already dismissed it, whilst the vast world of Windows users went 'meh?'...
The Narwhal with Unity is Canonical's pitch to be different, to provide an easy user experience, particularly for new users and Windows converts. But as we've already posted in our comparison of Unity and Gnome Shell, there is still nothing intrinsically more usable about Unity than Gnome 2 cascading menus and panels, other than a passing resemblance to certain smart-phone operating systems. Also, it's an acknowledged work-in-progress, sure to go through further iterations of development.
Veteran users are likely to feel straight-jacketed by Unity's restrictions; it's not particularly customisable. This group may even abandon it entirely for old-style Gnome 2 or one of the alternates listed above. We watch the download stats with interest. RC