A Look Back At The Desktop & X.Org/Wayland/Mir Milestones Of Ubuntu

Written by Michael Larabel in Operating Systems on 5 April 2017. Page 4 of 4. 46 Comments

2014: The hope was to have Mir in good shape for Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, Mark continued backing Mir, but it didn't happen for this LTS release. They had then made a commitment to Mir for Ubuntu 14.10. In January of 2014 is also when we heard Ubuntu wouldn't likely be on phones until 2015.

February 2014: The latest we hear is that Ubuntu is planning to develop its own file manager for Unity 8. That month is also when Canonical announced BQ and Meizu as Ubuntu Phone partners for launching products beginning in 2014.

An early look at Unity 8 of early 2014 via Trying The Unity 8 Desktop Session On Ubuntu 14.04.

March 2014: Mark Shuttleworth now says Mir by default in Ubuntu 16.04 LTS.

September 2014: Ubuntu Touch/Phone has its first RTM image (release to manufacturing).

November 2014: More ambitious plans for Mir/Unity in Ubuntu 15.04.

February 2015: The first Ubuntu Phone officially ships, the BQ Aquaris E4.5.

May 2015: Mark Shuttleworth announced an Ubuntu Phone with convergence will ship in 2015.

EOY 2015: Ubuntu 15.10 ships with Unity 7 still by default, Unity 8 is an experimental session. And the Ubuntu convergence plans delayed to 2016.

February 2016: Canonical announced the first official Ubuntu Tablet, the Bq Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition.

April 2016: Ubuntu 16.04 LTS ships with Unity 7 on X.Org by default.

May 2016: The developers realize early in the Ubuntu 16.10 cycle that Mir / Unity 8 still won't be ready for Ubuntu 16.10. Progress was made that cycle like with better X11 app support on Mir.

November 2016: Optimism remains that Unity 8 will be ready by Ubuntu 18.04 LTS.

January 2017: No Ubuntu Phone updates until the Snap-based Ubuntu image is ready as well as getting Unity 8 ready. Also expressed by their developers was the plan to release Mir 1.0 in 2017.

March 2017: Mir added drag and drop support along with other features in aiming for Mir 1.0 early in the Ubuntu 17.10 cycle.

5 April 2017: The shocking news today that Ubuntu is to abandon Unity 8 and switch back to GNOME by Ubuntu 18.04 LTS. Here's what Ubuntu 17.04 by default with Unity 7 is looking like:

The news today came as a surprise, just not that Unity 8 is being killed off now at this point, but also their plans to switch (back) to GNOME as well as admitting defeat in their Ubuntu Phone efforts. But after spending what was likely many millions of dollars the past few years in developing Unity 8, Mir, and the Ubuntu Phone/Tablet efforts, Mark Shuttleworth likely realized it was better to just double-down on their money-generating efforts around Ubuntu Cloud / Server / IoT and related areas. For those somehow not familiar with what GNOME looks like these days, see A Look At The Changes & New Features Of GNOME 3.24.

The ending of Unity 8 comes just as it was becoming more usable on the desktop front... From just the end of March was my Trying Out Unity 8 + Mir On Ubuntu 17.04.

Today's blog post by Mark didn't explicitly mention Mir, but that is 99% likely dead in the water now with no other desktop environments outside of Unity really being interested in Mir and some outright opposed to anything else besides X.Org/Wayland. About the amount of upstream Mir support we've seen has been the GTK and SDL support mainlined while the needed Mir/XMir changes haven't landed in xorg-server or Mesa. GNOME is unlikely to spend resources investing in Mir support while they've been stabilizing their Wayland support and that's now into good shape while Mir has no clear advantage over modern Wayland and its implementations.

So with that, Unity 8 (and presumably Mir) and Ubuntu Phone go the way of Ubuntu TV, Ubuntu for Android, Upstart, Ubuntu One, etc. It will be interesting to see where Ubuntu focuses on next and what kind of desktop or server/cloud innovations they have planned for next year's Ubuntu 18.04 LTS release.

What was your favorite moment for Unity? Share in the forums. If I missed any interesting milestones in this article, feel free to comment in the forums too, as today was just quickly digging through around two thousand articles I had written on Ubuntu since 2004 in coming up with this list.

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Michael Larabel

Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.