Canonical made quite a splash last fall when it announced that the Unity interface used in its Ubuntu Netbook Edition would become the default interface in the Linux distribution's desktop version as well beginning with version 11.04, or Natty Narwhal.
Previously, Ubuntu used the Gnome shell by default. Conflicts over design issues between Canonical and the Gnome project, however, apparently caused Canonical to shift to the multitouch- and 3D-enabled Unity shell instead.
Not long after Canonical's announcement, developers on both the Fedora and OpenSuse projects indicated that they'd start implementing Unity on their own distributions as well. Whereas Ubuntu is currently the No. 1 Linux distribution, according to Distrowatch, Fedora is No. 3 and OpenSuse is No. 5.
'Still stuck on this bug'
"Unity's an interesting project," wrote Fedora developer Adam Williamson back in December. "I want to look at it and compare it to Gnome Shell and I think quite a few others do too, so it seems nice to package it so you can run both on Fedora."
This week, however, both efforts apparently stalled.
Fedora's Williamson, for example, wrote on Monday that he has "had little time or inclination for doing much with Unity/Poulsbo. "Unity is still stuck on this bug that the upstream maintainer promised to look at after Christmas (I last submitted a requested change on Jan 25 and it's been crickets since)," he explained, noting that his work on the effort has been entirely voluntary. "If I had the inclination I could have set up a side repo to carry on building stuff, or bugged AJAX to include the patch anyway. I just haven't."
'Lack of satisfactory results'
Nelson Marques of the OpenSUSE project, meanwhile, has encountered similar obstacles. "Packaging Unity wasn't much of a problem, but implementing is being translated into frustration," Marques wrote in a blog post on Tuesday. That "and the lack of satisfactory results eventually lead to pre-burnout situations, and I'm not walking that road."
Marques cited problems he encountered as part of his frustration, including "Compiz behavior on several different git snapshots" as well as "the default gconf settings required by Unity and the backup/restore operations from OpenSuse defaults." (Compiz is the window manager that will be used by default alongside Unity in Natty Narwhal.)
"It's maybe wiser to wait for a bit more of development from upstream before looking into this," Marques concluded. "OpenSuse is supposed to be stable and reliable, and I don't see this branch of Compiz match those two qualities yet."
Ubuntu stands alone
Both developers did welcome the involvement of others interested in the effort, and Marques said he'd look into it again later, "once there's an official Compiz release from the branch that is required for Unity."
In the meantime, however, it looks like Natty Narwhal -- the final version of which is expected to be released in late April -- will be the only one with Unity enabled by default, at least for the near future.
Unity can now be seen in the second alpha version of Natty, which is now available for download on the Ubuntu site. A video on YouTube demonstrates the release in action. If you've checked the new interface out, please share your impressions in the comments.
Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk .