Talking tech since 2003

In April of next year, we are expected to see the release of the 11.04 version of the Ubuntu Linux operating system.  This version, codenamed Natty Narwhal is going to be like most updates of the popular Linux distribution in the sense that it will have better hardware support, updated applications, a handful of bug-fixes, etc.  However, one thing that is going to be a milestone for 11.04 is going to be the completely overhauled user-interface.  While many will argue that Ubuntu can use a new look, I personally feel that the implementation of the “Unity” interface will be a step backwards for what is otherwise a successful and respectable open-source project.

Many of you may be wondering what “Unity” is.  In short, the Unity interface is a dock-like layout where applications reside on a launcher (located on the left-hand side of the screen), and the workspace takes up the remaining screen real-estate.  While this may sound amazingly similar to the AWN navigation dock that I wrote about yesterday, the fact of the matter is that Unity is no where near as clean-looking as AWN and seems to “dummy down” the entire operating system.  While I have yet to try Unity on a desktop as of yet, I along with many others have tried Unity (and developed unfavorable views towards it) in the Ubuntu Netbook Remix.

In Ubuntu Netbook Remix, I found Unity to be very restrictive to the end-user.  While it may have simply been the small screen that caused the discomfort with the layout, Unity made it very hard to navigate applications and files.  Otherwise trivial tasks such as pinning a script to the launcher became true challenges with Unity.  I become so fed-up with Unity that I moved over to the standard “desktop” installation of Ubuntu and customized it to better meet my needs.

While I had no problem putting a little elbow-grease in to move myself away from Unity to the standard Ubuntu desktop, it is important to remember that when 11.o4 comes out in April, there will be no “standard” desktop to move back to; Unity will be the “standard.”  From my perspective, I don’t imagine that configuring a “traditional” layout will be too difficult.  However there are a lot of people who will not find very easy to do this, and after becoming fed-up with Unity, will likely discard the Ubuntu (and potentially Linux) OS altogether.

At the end of the day, I may very well be wrong.  It’s extremely possible that further development of Unity will lead it to become a strong and stable environment, and ultimately work better than the standard layout that we use now.  However, from what I’ve been discussing with friends in chat, Unity is not a very well liked change to Ubuntu, and has a great potential of tearing people away from the OS.

What do you think?  Do you like the concept of “Unity”?  Let us know in the comments!

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