As the date for the final release of Ubuntu 11.04 “Natty Narhwal” is approaching, there are still a lots of questions about the new UI – Unity – that it will come with. However, the good thing is that users who do not like Unity or whose hardware does not support Unity (right now there are reports of problems with ATI graphics card) can fall back to the classic GNOME desktop.
However, six months later when it is time for Ubuntu 11.10 “Oneiric Ocelot”, that may not be the case. Replying to a bug report, Mark Shuttleworth has mentioned that classic GNOME desktop fallback will not be available in Ubuntu 11.10.
This is what he wrote:
We made very good progress on a11y in Natty, but will miss the goal of perfect a11y. We’ll nail it in Oneiric. That’s OK, because we have the Classic desktop fallback in Natty, but will not in Oneiric.
This decision will most likely be met with mixed reaction from users and a lot will depend on how Unity in Ubuntu 11.04 feels like. Having used Unity from the development version of Ubuntu 11.04, I feel that it still has a lot rough edges that needs some more works. That is however not a very big concern in Natty since I can revert to the classic desktop. However, since the classic desktop will be removed in Ubuntu 11.10, Canonical has to make sure that the Unity experience is as smooth as possible.
Since a lot of people use Ubuntu on older hardware, there is also the problem of if Unity will run on them or not. Unity requires Compiz and, so, not all the old hardware will be able to run it. In such cases, I think Unity 2D will be used as fall-back, although nothing has been said officialy. Unity 2D is based on Qt and does not require hardware acceleration. This means that it should run on hardware which cannot run the normal Unity (Unity 3D). Mark Shuttleworth has recently mentioned that they plan to include Qt applications in future release of Ubuntu, this might be it.