Canonical aligns Kubuntu as community flavor

To withdraw personnel funding from project after 12.04 release

Canonical appears to be streamlining its focus on the desktop by cutting funding for Kubuntu work after the release of the upcoming 12.04 releases this April.

The news comes from Ubuntu developer Jonathan Riddell, who posted his [kubuntu-devel] announcement late February 6 on the Canonical Voices and KDE blogs.

"Today I bring the disappointing news that Canonical will no longer be funding my work on Kubuntu after 12.04. Canonical wants to treat Kubuntu in the same way as the other community flavors such as Edubuntu, Lubuntu, and Xubuntu, and support the projects with infrastructure. This is a big challenge to Kubuntu of course and KDE as well.

"The practical changes are I won't be able to work on KDE bits in my work time after 12.04 and there won't be paid support for versions after 12.04. This is a rational business decision, Kubuntu has not been a business success after 7 years of trying, and it is unrealistic to expect it to continue to have financial resources put into it."

While Riddell is perfectly correct, and Canonical's logic is sound, the Linux community has a history of rejecting arguments of the head (and the pocketbook) over those of the heart. Certainly Canonical's attitude towards KDE has changed since Mark Shuttleworth wrote an invitation to the Kubuntu and KDE community to work with Canonical at the 2006 LinuxTag event:

"I believe that the KDE community does phenomenal work, and having a community-driven distribution to showcase that work will help attract users and developers to the project. Our overall goal in the Ubuntu project is to further the adoption of free software on the desktop and the server, and we recognise that KDE is an essential part of the mix of desktop environments that allows people to find the best environment for their needs."

Clearly, that was then, and this is now.

This decision, it must be emphasized, does not mean the end of Kubuntu. Rather, Kubuntu will be realigned with the rest of the Ubuntu flavor distributions with Edubuntu and Xubuntu. Riddell also mentions Lubuntu, the LXDE-based flavor, in his announcement though it is not listed on the official Ubuntu Flavor page.

To stress this point, Riddell's announcement was accompanied by a post from Jason Warner on the [kubuntu-devel] mailing list that outlined what it means to be a Long-Term Service (LTS) release, and "what services and resources will be provided by Canonical and what is expected to come from the community," Warner wrote.

"Practically speaking, not much should change. Community leaders should drive the flavors in terms of vision, direction, scope, day-to-day work items and release. Canonical is committed to providing the various bits of infrastructure as well as the platform upon which to build the flavors. The move aligns all flavors to a community driven and supported model with Canonical providing core infrastructure."

Infrastructure, yes. Personnel, it seems, no. This is not explicitly stated on the Recognized Derivatives page Warner refers to in his post as a resource guide for recognized flavors, but Riddell's status change within Canonical definitely implies a GNOME/Unity-only focus of personnel moving forward.

For his part, Riddell issued a personal call for more developers to get in and help with Kubuntu development.

"If it does then we need people to step up and take the initiative in doing the tasks that are often poorly supported by the community process. ISO testing, for example, is a long, slow, thankless task, and it is hard to get volunteers for it."

It will, of course, be interesting to see who the Kubuntu, and the wider KDE community, reacts to this news. Canonical has committed its resources to Unity and GNOME now, and you can be sure the debate will continue about their decisions.

Read more of Brian Proffitt's Zettatag and Open for Discussion blogs and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Drop Brian a line or follow Brian on Twitter at @TheTechScribe. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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