12 May 2016

Will Ubuntu keep the title of the best Desktop OS?

While working at Dell Inc. in the 2011 I met some Linux enthusiasts that introduced me to Ubuntu. I have heard about SUSE, Debian and Red Hat before but they were never promoted as real alternatives to Windows and OS X. But Ubuntu changed my mindset toward Linux so I decided to give it a try. At the beginning I felt it was too hard to understand so I went back and forth between Ubuntu and Windows until I got used to Ubuntu. My first barrier was the fact that on Windows everything was fixed by installing a software that will do everything for you  and on Linux it was all about the Terminal. But once you realize that you don't need to deal with malware and slow performance anymore you simply don't look back at Windows.

Ubuntu was rapidly growing and becoming an Operating System for all your needs. The community was very happy with it until they decided to switch from Gnome to Unity and add the Amazon results right from the dash. At the beginning Unity didn't bother me because Gnome 3 was not that advanced by then. However the Amazon results felt like an embedded spyware. At that point Ubuntu didn't feel like the community driven and open source project we used to love. Then my faith in Ubuntu was dimming because they announced many projects that ended up in nothing. Examples of those projects are:

  • Ubuntu One
  • Ubuntu for Android
  • Ubuntu TV

Ubuntu could had easily increased their market share in the Desktop area by placing all their resources into that sector but they felt adventurous and they wanted to explore other areas. Companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple can take some risk because they all have an strong budget, hence they can afford losing some of it. However that is not the reality for Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu.

The development of Unity 7 stopped about 3 years ago in favour of Ubuntu Touch and we have not seen anything exciting yet from the desktop. The latest release of Ubuntu (16.04) came with slight changes to Unity that makes it look more descent. But descent is not enough compared to the experience you could have with Gnome, Cinnamon, Pantheon, Budgie and KDE. Canonical promised us that we were going to have a single experience for the desktop and mobile devices soon. However it is still far from becoming a reality. Ubuntu Touch is still an app-less mobile OS and it is not even close to the ecosystem you get with Android and iOS.

Furthermore, I felt I could not wait any longer hoping that someday Ubuntu was going to catch up and give us the great desktop experience they guaranteed we were going to have through Unity 8. Therefore I decided to move to a different distro. And just like me, many people found in Fedora a new home. What I like the most about Fedora is the Gnome Desktop. I am aware that there is an Ubuntu Gnome, however Canonical does not really care about other *buntu flavours. Only Fedora comes with an out of the box Gnome Desktop Experience. I perceive that Ubuntu will soon lose its porting capabilities. Ubuntu+Mir+Unity 8 work as a single piece of software, hence splitting the Ubuntu portion from the rest would become extremely difficult.

Red Hat Inc. has ensured that the Fedora Project must work closely with the Gnome Project to provide the best desktop experience. The release cycles on both projects are indeed synchronized. Even though both are independent projects Red Hat is their primary sponsor and there are many Red Hat employees working on both projects.

Red Hat is also the leader of open source development including the Linux Kernel.

Ever since Canonical Ltd. has partially abandoned the desktop, Fedora has become the bleeding edge of Linux. And it is also shaping the future of Linux by collaborating on the following projects and features.

  • Wayland (Display Server)
  • Xdg-apps (App Container Similar to Snap Packages)
  • DNF (CLI Package Manager)

I also like the fact that Fedora is continuously working closely with upstream projects rather than forking and repackaging them. On top of that, Fedora+Gnome works nicely with my Google Account. I was able to easily integrate the Gnome Desktop with many Google Online Services. Fedora also provides a nice support for Chrome and Chrome Apps. Having that in mind I feel that Fedora compliments my ecosystem of devices along with my Android phone instead of becoming a single Operating System for everything.

I would also like to add the fact that Gnome works very well on touchscreen devices and could become a potential contender to Unity 8. Besides, you will never have the same amount of customization on Unity than what you could get through Gnome.

On the other hand I must admit that Ubuntu still has plenty of advantages I will further enlist below.

  • Marketing. The Ubuntu brand has been promoted very well.
  • Partnership with hardware vendors. Ubuntu already come preinstalled on many machines.
  • Partnership with software vendors. There are more applications available for Ubuntu than any other Linux distro.
  • Out of the box drivers and software repositories including support for non-free apps.
  • PPAs. Developers could easily create independent repos. However we have Copr on Fedora now.
  • Virtual Cloud Servers. Ubuntu Server offers tools that help you deploy web apps and there is plenty of documentation on the internet for anything you want to do.
  • Long Term Support. Up to five years of free updates is more than enough for anyone.

The next release of Ubuntu (16.10) is supposed to bring Unity 8 to the Desktop and a full stack of snappy applications working under Mir/xMir.

So the question in here is: Will Ubuntu 16.10 have what it takes to make their desktop users happy and stick with it? Or will fail miserably and become mainly an OS for the cloud.

Meanwhile Fedora is everything Ubuntu should had been on the desktop side and it becomes better on each release. In case you don't want to waste time installing drivers, codecs and repositories you could install Korora which is an even more out of the box experience based on Fedora.

Written by Eric Nicholls for Linux notes from DarkDuck


  1. I have been on a similar track but I ended up using Linux Mint. It is a shame that Ubuntu does what it does. I am not sure how I should feel that Ubuntu now introduced the Snappy package manager. They somehow lost touch with their user base.

  2. I used Ubuntu in 2007-2009 and then Mint and Ubuntu side by side until Unity came and i totally stopped using it. I have tried few days after major new release but found it not suitable for my purpose and for my family.

  3. I don't feel like Ubuntu really cares about the desktop any more. Shuttleworth closed his bug about obtaining desktop marketshare, the Ubuntu website has shifted from "Ubuntu is Linux for Human Beings" to "Ubuntu is the leading OS for All Devices". The first thing you encounter on the site are offerings for servers and cloud services, then tablets. The PC is relegated to a menu item.

    Ubuntu gave up, sadly, on consumer-oriented desktops.

    Debian and Mint, Fedora, Magiea, and SUSE are still excellent choices (in that order of third party support). It's a pity because Ubuntu spent a hell of a lot of time and money building a brand. I'm just happy I didn't invest in it emotionally, myself. I'm much happier as a Debian and Fedora user.

  4. Tried Ubuntu. Linux Mint 17.3 finally got me off of W7. Almost 5 months now solo booting Mint. Love it. I do realize Mint is based on Ubuntu (which is based on Debian), so I hope it stays around too. LOL

  5. I love Fedora. Love it. However, I use the Cinnamon DE instead of Gnome 3. I could never get on to it. I still can't. Fedora/Cinnamon has been the best marriage of desktop computer and graphical user environment. Yay to both projects.

  6. Ubuntu lost that title YERS ago when Linux Mint and Debian pushed it down from #1 distro to #3. It's been there for years, and is FAR from the best Linux OS choice. Maybe if it adopted Cinnamon as it's default desktop environment, it would re-gain popularity.

  7. The name should really be Ubuntu Debian, because the underlying structure of Ubuntu is a highly stable mixture of Debian Stable and Debian Sid. I use that structure, but not the Ubuntu desktop: instead, I install the minimalist Xubuntu Core and add to it what software I need. It requires you Do-It-Yourself, but that means you Get-What-You-Want!

  8. Fedora and GNOME works really well together, also my choice. Love Fedora because of their updated packages, new technique, package manager (DNF), stability and security. Love GNOME because of their functional and command based "touch", also good looking desktop. Best OS and GUI :)

  9. I used OpenSuSE for 12 years. Switched to Ubuntu on my desktop a year ago, got the BQ 4.5 with Ubuntu touch, and loaded Ubuntu touch on my nexus 7. I would say I am very happy with Ubuntu and even Unity.
    There are a few things from KDE I miss, but the stability is way better than SuSE was.
    I tried Fedora a few times, but I am not a Gnome fan.

  10. Year of Linux: [actual year] + 1...

  11. I did a similar thing but went with Arch instead. I started to lose faith in Ubuntu around 2010 and was already trying other distros. When Unity came I first went to Fedora but the lackluster of applications I wanted and a pretty arrogant and impolite community made me try Arch. Arch gave the absolute best experience and had a stellar community... so I found home. ;)

  12. Ubuntu is just one team's vision of what an OS should be, whether its for laptops and desktops or tablets and smart phones. The title of "Best Desktop OS" is impossible to call, since everyone has a different opinion of what's "best' for them and their hardware. I for one have desktops running openSuSE and CEntOS and laptops running Ubuntu (16.04) and Fedora. I don't have a problem with any of it. I enjoy the divers and myriad experiences I get with each desktop. I am not a regular user of Ubuntu, and for the few times I've used it it seems to perform with no issue. But I am a Fedor-ian from since their 14 release. Gnome is just what I need it to be, and I know where everything is and how to access it. Its not about what's best, its about what's best FOR YOU!

  13. Yes, true. I switched manjaro.. xfce after upgrading to ubuntu 16 from 15. First of all ubuntu is not refreshing. Why would they not change orange and dark purple color ? It is very scary for eyes.

  14. Fighting within the < 1% desktop market share :) GNOME os nice, Ubuntu is nice. All FOSS.

    I would switch to Fedora if it had good ux for both small screen and large.

  15. Shame that the support cycle for fedora is so short compared to with Ubuntu LTS.