Canonical has released its latest version of Ubuntu today. Under the hood 11.04 Natty has made many controversial changes, first and foremost the addition of Unity which replaces the standard GNOME desktop. The new desktop was originally designed for the Ubuntu Netbook Edition but has now made its way to the standard version.
Beyond the introduction of the new Unity shell, there have been several other additions. The Gtk+ theme has a new slim scrollbar style, and the default music player in Ubuntu changed from Rhythmbox to Banshee. The Ubuntu Software Center has finally included support for posting ratings and reviews. This addition will make it easier for end users to make better decisions when adding packages to their system.
Ubuntu has been heavily criticized as of late for its increasingly closed development process, especially since it touts itself as being the “community” distribution. It’s often confusing design decisions and break from GNOME have done a lot to annoy many users as of late. With the recent release of GNOME 3 and Fedora 15 right around the corner Ubuntu has a lot at stake with Unity. I for one think that more diversity and choices are a good thing. Parallel development of GNOME Shell and Unity will undoubtedly spur innovation and will be a positive for both desktops.
The Open Source philosophy believes that freedom and choice are important. The big question is will the Ubuntu users support the new desktop and Canonical’s increasingly closed methodology, or choose to stay with GNOME and move to another distribution?