Canonical has issued a statement on Ubuntu’s 32-bit future — and gamers, among others, are sure to relieved!

The company says Ubuntu WILL now continue to build and maintain a 32-bit archive going forward — albeit, not a full one.

In a response emailed to me (but presumably posted online somewhere) the company cite “the huge amount of feedback this weekend from gamers, Ubuntu Studio, and the WINE community” for persuading them to change track.

That outcry, almost unparalleled in Ubuntu’s history, resulted in Valve, makers of the hugely popular games distribution service Steam, announcing that it would not support future Ubuntu releases.

This, combined with worries from users relaying on legacy applications or Windows-only software ran through WINE, has resulted in a change of plans.

Accordingly, Canonical says it “…will build selected 32-bit i386 packages for Ubuntu 19.10 and 20.04 LTS,” they say.

Notice the word “selected” there. It seems the full 32-bit archive we enjoy now wont stick around, but a curated collection of libraries, tooling and other packages will be made available.

This should ensure that vital consumer software like Steam, and legacy Windows apps many businesses and education establishments rely on, continue to function on future releases.

Canonical adds that it: “…will put in place a community process to determine which 32-bit packages are needed to support legacy software, and can add to that list post-release if we miss something that is needed.”

Shocked? Surprised? Of course you aren’t! The moment Steam signalled it wouldn’t support Ubuntu 19.10 if 32-bit packages weren’t available a volte-face from Canonical was inevitable.

Which, to their credit, they swiftly done.

“The Ubuntu developers remain committed as always to the principle of making Ubuntu the best open source operating system across desktop, server, cloud, and IoT. We look forward to the ongoing engagement of our users in continuing to make this principle a reality.”

This isn’t a total reprieve for 32-bit fans. Ubuntu has no plans to re-add 32-bit install ISOs or provide 32-bit library support in perpetuity.

Instead, it hopes to work with WINE, Ubuntu Studio and gaming community to explore the use of container technology to ‘address the ultimate end of life of 32-bit libraries.’ The aim: to create a safer, secure way to run old applications on newer versions of Ubuntu.

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