October 25, 2010

Day 1 - Report from Ubuntu Developer Summit


Gerry Carr is head of platform marketing at Canonical and is reporting directly from Ubutu Developer Summit this week. We're hosting those exclusive reports here as a series of guest blogs...

And so it begins. For anyone unfamiliar with the Ubuntu Developer Summit, it's a biannual get together for the great minds of the wider Ubuntu community to figure out what's going to happen in the next release. It's pretty unique; almost all of the sessions are entirely open and broadcast online for remote participation.

My day began, like everyone else's, with the keynote by Mark Shuttleworth.

Anticipating that the announcement of the switch to Unity as the default shell for Ubuntu 11.04 would cause a bit of interest, we shared a link of the keynote's live stream with reporters and held an open press conference with Mark attended by the Inquirer, Register, Internet.com, Computerworld, Ars Technica, IDG, ZDNet and others.

In the blogosphere there has been the usual immediate, thoughtful reactions to the announcement. :-) To be fair, most reaction seems balanced and at least waiting to see what the community comes up with in Natty.

My view is that the Unity switch is a brave decision by the platform team that shows them taking real responsibility for the success of Ubuntu. There are issues with it technically, substantial in number and well-known. It will be a great collective effort to resolve them in time for the release, but the Ubuntu project has a good record of doing this.

What I like is that it will make Ubuntu experientially different to Windows and Mac (as well as the other Linux distros of course). This is critical in giving users a choice in operating systems which goes beyond the philosophical underpinning of the development process.

Many will use Ubuntu because it is free/libre. Many more may use it because they like the interface, like having a left hand side menu, like having their applications display in the manner that Unity does it. In other words, the more reasons we can give people to switch, the more responsibility we take for delivering a different and better experience, the better it will ultimately be for free software - all of it.

The reason that I am confident of all this is, well UDS. It's a pretty amazing process to see discussion like this at this scale. A dozen rooms at any one time buzzing with ideas and argument with people plugging in externally to contribute. Problems are aired, solutions proposed and challenged.

Coming from the proprietary world as I do, well, it just doesn't happen this way. Exposing decisions to the light usually makes for better decisions. It might be slower in many ways (although this is far from always true) but when consensus is reached it generally has the buy-in of the people involved in the discussion and therefore their active participation.

And a big plus of this UDS is the setting - Caribe Royale Hotel Resort in Florida. Although I am sitting in a dark room with too much AC, there is the thought of a swim in the pool when the day is over.