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Ubuntu 11.04 to ship Unity as default desktop?

A blueprint suggesting a that a variant of the Unity netbook interface should be used on the desktop edition for Natty Narwhal has been approved by Mark Shuttleworth for discussion at the Ubuntu Developer Summit this week.

The Unity Netbook Interface

The blueprint suggests that GNOME Shell isn’t ready for the prime time for use in Ubuntu, and probably won’t be by April next year when 11.04 is scheduled for release. Rather than ship with GNOME Shell, the blueprint author Kenny Strawn has proposed that a “desktop-oriented form factor of Unity [should be used] instead of GNOME Shell in the Natty Narwhal.”

What makes this interesting is that the idea has been approved for active discussion at UDS by Mark Shuttleworth himself after he initially said that Unity was for netbooks only earlier this year.

The proposed solution involves the following key features:

  • A floating Unity Dash that can be moved to all edges of the screen
  • Floating, overlapping windows with their title bars and controls on them, not on the top panel
  • The home screen consolidated into a simple pop-down menu that extends down from the top left of the screen and allows you access to your programs and desktop search

It summarizes: “Basically turn Unity into a UI that can match and exceed the OS X user interface in regards to visual effects (such as transparency and Mutter-like effects). Of course, this would be for the desktop edition, not the netbook edition.”

Gnome Shell

GNOME Shell has come under much criticism ever since the concept was born, with many citing that it’s not user friendly and a step backwards in terms of the desktop experience.

Unity hasn’t been without critics either, with Ubuntu exclusive hardware manufacturer System 76 choosing not to ship Unity in their Starling netbook series citing that it’s “slow” and “confusing” for users.

While this is simply an idea that has been approved for discussion, does it represent the beginnings of a move away from upstream GNOME as Canonical pursue their own design paradigm? We will certainly find out when this session runs next week.