Mark Shuttleworth Chats About Unity

I thought I'd re-post some comments by Mark Shuttleworth, the guy who (currently) bankrolls a lot of the Ubuntu development and what he has to say on the matter of user interfaces and going it alone with  Unity, in an open online chat via The Register yesterday: You can find the full exchange there.

This is just an extract pulled by Alan Pope, Engineering Manager in the Canonical Product Strategy team (whom I wound up over the weekend on the Hants LUG mailing list and accidentally started a torrent of abuse from all and sundry - top marks to Alan for maintaining a reasoned debate). RC

"Comment From Nick
mr Shuttleworth,regarding your reference on Unity,we can see a slight dislike of experienced and new ubuntu users regarding it's "hard to use" interface.What are your comments on that matter?

Mark Shuttleworth:
@Nick, yes, there was a lot of consternation at the change. But we didn't see any way to get from old to perfect new without going through imperfect new, and we felt it was obsolescence if we didn't make the commitment. We had to leave a lot of friends behind, most of them are friends again.

Register Gav:
what was at stake for UB if that change wasn't made: the embrace of all interfaces, the 2008 "reboot", the switch to Unity? was this a make-or-break for Ubuntu?

Mark Shuttleworth:
It was tough to lead, I can tell you. We had done very well just shipping the best of FLOSS, but it clearly wasn't enough. Back in 2008 we had a very hard time getting anyone to listen on the topic of design, and when we tried to lead, we found industry politics blocked us. So we decided to JFDI, and I'm glad we did. The rest have followed, grumbling.

Mark Shuttleworth:
Windows 8 is really interesting. Microsoft have realised they need to address all form factors. The Metro work is world class, but the tablet/desktop integration in Win 8 is sucky, in part because they were not willing or able to move the desktop as hard as we were in the shift to Unity. If we had tried to marry Gnome2 and a tablet, you would get Win8 :). So Unity on the desktop was in large part designed to make the tablet / desktop convergence slick. It's been copied by others, but I don't think they understand exactly what they were copying ;)

Comment From Big Dave
Do you see Linux Mint as a threat and are there any plans to bring Ubuntu closer to Linux Mint with its improved ease-of-use for users?

Mark Shuttleworth:
@Big Dave, am happy for Mint to be addressing the needs of its users. As a fellow Debian-based distro, we have a lot in common. I think there's a limit to how far you can go if you only appeal to people who are grumpy about change, though, because then you either have to maintain the old, or introduce new change yourself.

Mint said they would maintain Gnome2, then stopped. Then said they would offer Gnome Shell Extensions. Then forked Gnome Shell. It's all good and OK, but I think it gets more difficult over time unless you commit to a vision and drive it. And I don't know what that vision is."