Over the past week a vibrant discussion has centered on the question of whether or not Ubuntu should move to a rolling development cycle rather than a six month development cycle. This is a question of how Ubuntu should be developed. This is a question for developers to pose and answer. It is a question that I have the complete and full faith of the Ubuntu development community to answer wisely.
How often should Ubuntu release a product? The answer to that question is near and dear to my heart. The two questions are not mutually exclusive. Obviously development and release go hand in glove. However, the question of how often Ubuntu should release a product also answers the question of how Ubuntu is perceived and used commercially. I believe this to be of vital importance and central to the big picture Ubuntu strategy.
The Convergence Story and Six Month Releases
Today’s timing makes the discussion difficult. Releasing 13.04 and following twelve months later with 14.04 and, with a lot of hard work, a converged phone, tablet and desktop experience sounds perfectly reasonable. Sounds like a good idea actually.
It’s 14.04 to 16.04 where the prospects change. Will mobile phone and tablet manufactures use only 14.04 for two years and with only security updates? Is that competitively feasible? Is that what Ubuntu wants?
Does the rolling development release tempt manufactures to pull snapshots for products? That would put them ahead though probably not on sound footing nor representing Ubuntu well. I can certainly see it happening. We already have someone taking pre-orders for a non-existent Ubuntu tablet. And it seems mobile phone manufactures are always fighting for an edge.
Six months is a nice cadence for OEM’s of any type. Whether phone, tablet or desktop, as an OEM we know we are always within six months of a production release. Our hardware production cadence is, by Ubuntu standards, unpredictably driven by Intel. Predictable, new software that we can pull from is extremely valuable. As Ubuntu drives in new directions, I suspect Canonical will learn that tablet and phone manufactures will appreciate rather than scold the regular six month pace. Maybe that’s why the traditional desktop is being challenged.
We like to move fast. System76 doesn’t support a release every six month because it’s easy. On the contrary, we’re doing all of this precisely because it’s hard. Because we have a chance to make a real difference in the world. We take pride in ensuring our customers have an exceptionally solid product with latest and greatest open source software every six months.
The Flag Is Planted
System76 planted its flag alongside Ubuntu over seven years ago and we are by no means wavering. My concern and my care is toward Ubuntu as a whole and not System76 individually. We’ll take any decision and produce great Ubuntu products out of it. Ubuntu’s success is ours and I hope those in the Ubuntu world feel that our success is theirs as well. Together we’re either going to the moon or the bottom of the sea. I’m pretty damn sure we’re going to the moon.