How Kubuntu Did Not Change

There appears to be some confusion regarding the meaning of yesterday’s announcement that Kubuntu 11.10 is going to be the last release Canonical is offering commercial support for.

For those who have not yet read about it, let me quickly recap the situation. Up until now Kubuntu was a Canonical supported flavor of Ubuntu. This essentially means that you can buy a support contract from Canonical to help you with your Kubuntu infrastructure. Every once in a while Canonical would stamp ‘LTS’ on a Kubuntu release to indicate that they would support this release for 3 or 5 of years to come (delivering security and major bug fixes primarily). The 11.10 release is the last release for which Canonical offers these services. As a direct consequence Jonathan Riddell, a good friend of mine and fearless leader of Kubuntu, will work on other technology during work hours.

You might have noticed that I was writing a lot about Canonical just now, and the reason for this is that the change mostly is about Canonical and not Kubuntu.
Kubuntu is and always has been a mostly community driven project. To give you an idea what mostly means in this case: out of the 25 people who notably contributed in the past year, 1 person was employed by Canonical to do so (i.e. 4% of general Kubuntu work was financed by Canonical). Please do not get me wrong though. Jonathan is a great developer and does a considerable amount of work, particularly in those areas where the community currently lacks motivation, hence some workflow revision is in order to make the ‘new’ Kubuntu equally efficient.

So what changes for real?

  • No commercial support from Canonical for future releases.
  • Jonathan Riddell will work on non-Kubuntu stuff during work hours.
  • Alignment of Kubuntu with other siblings like Edubuntu, Lubuntu and Xubuntu.
    For those who care: on a technical level this means that a considerable amount of Kubuntu maintained software will be moved from the main to the universe archive.
  • Probably some workflow changes that are yet to be discussed.

Is this bad?
It probably is if you wanted to adopt Kubuntu in your company and were counting on a Canonical support contract. However this is probably more of Canonical’s loss than your’s. As noted earlier there is a pool of more than 25 people one could employ directly to get the same result, perhaps even better. It is certainly sad that Jonathan will not be able to continue getting payed for working on his baby though.

Is this good?
Moving to universe bares a great deal of opportunities for Kubuntu. Primarily it gives the community yet bigger control over what the distribution looks like as we do not need to get software approved to be worthy of Canonical’s support. At the same time it also reduces the policy overhead (main inclusion for those who have heared of it). The detanglement allows us to move even closer to KDE without having to worry about conflicting interests, as what is good for KDE is not necessarily what is good for Canonical.
All in all I expect Kubuntu to become more agile and continue to regularly deliver an easy to use Linux distribution featuring the latest and greatest KDE software.

There is an occasional and not very amusing urban myth that Kubuntu is a stepchild of Ubuntu based on the idea that Canonical is not giving the same amount of care to Kubuntu as other flavors of Ubuntu. It’s not true because Canonical has given much more care to Kubuntu than many other flavours. But all those who believe in this myth may now rejoice as the stepchild is moving out and going to share a flat with its much loved siblings \o/