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Shuttleworth invests to improve Linux interface

By   |  September 11, 2008

Canonical, the corporate backer of Ubuntu Linux, is hiring a team of designers and developers to make desktop open source software easier and more appealing to use.

Canonical head and Ubuntu founder, Mark Shuttleworth, said in a blog post yesterday that the company plans to hire a team of designers and user interface experts to contribute to not only Ubuntu’s usability but also to other upstream open source applications.

Shuttleworth said that Canonical is now in a position to drive “real change in the software that is part of Ubuntu”.

But, said said Shuttleworth, “if we just showed up with pictures and prototypes and asked people to shape their projects differently, I can’t imagine that being well received!”

Instead, Canonical is hiring designers that will “work on X, OpenGL, Gtk, Qt, GNOME and KDE, with a view to doing some of the heavy lifting required to turn those desktop experience ideas into reality”.

These developers would contribute their interface improvements to the upstream projects as well as include them in future Ubuntu releases, said Shuttleworth.

It was in July that Shutleworth first raised the challenge of improving the appearance and usability of Linux. At OScon in Oregon, he said that Linux developers needed to improve the interface so that it could “blow right past Apple”.

And earlier this week, announcing Jaunty Jackalope, Shuttleworth said that Ubuntu 9.04 should be comparable to those of the traditional big OSV’s – Microsoft and Apple.

How important are good looks to the success of Linux? In a recent poll of Tectonic readers just 15 percent thought Linux needed to be prettier to succeed. Most respondents thought Linux needed better hardware support. What do you think?


8 Responses to “Shuttleworth invests to improve Linux interface”

  1. tracyanne
    September 12th, 2008 @ 2:37 pm

    The really funny thing is that distributions like Mandriva, with their KDE desktop, have already blown right past Apple, while Shuttleworth’s distribution looks ugly and old, and has no better functionality than GNOME already has. I don’t know how he’s going to blow right past Apple unless he completely revamps the GNOME desktop, and I can see the GNOME developers falling in line to be told what to do by him.

  2. xlinuks
    September 12th, 2008 @ 7:01 pm

    Saying Mandriva has blown Apple is silly, I have their 2008.1 release and it’s far from the experience that Leopard offers, to me this is plain Mandriva-Linux fanboyism. Besides KDE is still very buggy, everyone who gave KDE a try knows that.

  3. tracyanne
    September 13th, 2008 @ 6:29 am

    I work with Linux, Mac and windows, I use them all regularly.

    The GNOME Desktop that Shuttleworth uses is definitely not up to the look and feel of the Mac desktop, it looks old and ugly, especially compared to KDE Leopard and Vista, and is certainly in need of a lot of work.

    KDE 3.x doesn’t have the gloss of the leopard desktop, but it is certainly a better desktop from a usability perspective, KDE4 , while immature promises to take the Linux desktop past the Leopard desktop both in looks (gloss) and usability.

  4. limE
    September 13th, 2008 @ 7:04 am

    First off…hats off to Mr Shuttleworth. He’s seen something that he doesn’t like, he’s publicized the fact that he thinks it needs improvement, and more importantly, he’s putting his money where his mouth is.

    Mac OSX will always have the advantage that their operating system is designed only to work with a minimal set of hardware.

    To a lot of people, it’s like people buying a car… the most important thing is aesthetics. To beat the established players in the game, you can be as well engineered and technically superior as you want, but if it ain’t pretty, people aren’t going to buy it…and won’t even be bothered downloading it for free either.

    IMHO, the visual experience that both GNOME and KDE provide are sufficient for the everyday user. To increase market share and get people talking about linux…this investment is a smart move.

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