While things are coming to a close in Oakland at the last day of UDS-Q, there was an interesting session that concerns the future of third-party driver installation on Ubuntu 12.10 and future releases.
The Ubuntu developers discussed plans to improve third-party driver installation (namely for the binary driver blobs) on Ubuntu Linux. The improvement isn't by eliminating the need for hardware driver blobs or anything on that end to fundamentally shift the equation, but rather to allow end-users to more easily install the proprietary bits.
The main part of this session revolved around doing away with the complicated logic currently inside Jockey, the Ubuntu program for managing the third-party driver installations. The Jockey code-base has grown quite complex while there's now new features in the Ubuntu Linux stack (such as with PackageKit and aptdaemon) that can allow to simplify the logic and improve the back-end.
Ubuntu developers also discussed merging the Jockey/third-party-driver functionality directly into the Ubuntu Software Center itself. For a novice Linux end-user, this would make sense.
There's also talk of having the Jockey functionality cover open-source drivers, to add the VirtualBox guest drivers to Jockey, and better integrate with the hardware database.
Also talked about were plans to expand the proprietary coverage of drivers within Ubuntu. Among the mentioned hardware was for now bundling scanner firmware, support for ndiswrapper (what allows using Windows networking drivers on Linux), Brother Printer drivers, LinuxAnt dial-up model drivers, and more.
The official notes from today's third-party driver handling session can be found at uds.ubuntu.com