Canonical, the company behind the best-known Linux distribution in the world and one of the biggest players in commercial open source software, has announced several large-scale changes of direction that have created big ripples in the open source world.
The biggest news is that the company will no longer focus development resources on its Unity desktop front-end for Linux – a long-standing project designed to make Ubuntu a viable operating system for a wide array of endpoints, including phones and tablets. Instead, Ubuntu will move back to the venerable GNOME desktop environment, which it split from in 2010.
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The move means that some of Canonical’s resources will move to GNOME development, but others will simply go away – a report from The Register yesterday said that the company is planning to cut anywhere between 30% and 60% of its total headcount in many departments as part of a drive to make itself more profitable. The hope is that this can attract additional outside investment.
It’s also rumored, according to an article by Linux-watcher Michael Larabel at Phoronix, that Ubuntu project founder Mark Shuttleworth will return to Canonical as CEO, ousting Jane Silber, who has held the position since March 2010. That’s according to unnamed sources within Canonical, who also peg the company’s pending job cuts at roughly 100 people, out of what the Register says is an estimated workforce of 700.
An online poll at the independent community news site OMGUbuntu.co.uk found that the news about Ubuntu’s move back to GNOME has so far drawn mixed reviews, with almost 36% of respondents pleased, 40% either ambivalent or otherwise uncertain, and 24% unhappy.
The move signals an increased emphasis on Canonical’s other business areas, including cloud, VM and IoT, according to an official blog post from Shuttleworth on Wednesday.
“You all probably know that most public cloud workloads, and most private Linux cloud infrastructures, depend on Ubuntu,” he wrote. “The number and size of commercial engagements around Ubuntu on cloud and IoT has grown materially and consistently.”