Should Canonical release a MATE version of Ubuntu?

In today's open source roundup: Will we see a MATE version of Ubuntu? Plus: Linux versus Windows and consoles in gaming, and Firefox 30 released

Canonical's Unity interface in Ubuntu has fiercely polarized Linux users ever since it was released. Now some are calling for a MATE version of Ubuntu, which would provide a more traditional desktop interface that resembles what Ubuntu looked like before Unity. The VAR Guy thinks it might be good for Ubuntu and for the MATE project if such a release happened.

According to The VAR Guy:

Do you love Ubuntu Linux but hate Canonical's Unity interface? If so, there may be good news on the horizon regarding an official version of Ubuntu using the open source MATE desktop environment, if the rumor mill has things right.

MATE—apparently pronounced mat-ay, in the same fashion as the herbal beverage—is a fork of the GNOME 2 desktop environment. GNOME 2 was the interface that millions of Linux users knew and loved until the GNOME developers retired it in favor of GNOME 3 circa 2011, around the same time that Canonical introduced its homegrown Unity environment as the default graphical interface for Ubuntu.

More at The VAR Guy
MATE Desktop for Ubuntu
Image credit: MATE Desktop

I'm probably in the minority on this issue but I think it would be a rather bad idea on Canonical's part. The company has put a lot of money, time and development resources into improving Unity in Ubuntu, what exactly would they get by releasing a MATE version?

The article suggests that it might help bring more users to Ubuntu, but I doubt that would happen. The Ubuntu users who hate Unity most likely moved on to different distributions quite a while ago. Why would they bother to move back to Ubuntu just for MATE? MATE is available already in various distributions including the hugely popular Linux Mint distro.

And Canonical doesn't have an unlimited amount of development resources to throw at every project that generates rumors on the Internet. Like any company, they have to carefully pick and choose where they put their time and money. So I just don't see an official MATE version of Ubuntu being released anytime soon.

On the other hand, I could be quite wrong about this. Softpedia reported on the rumor about MATE coming to Ubuntu, and it sounded quite plausible given the apparent involvement of someone at Canonical:

According to Softpedia:

Martin Wimpress, a MATE Desktop team member, took it upon himself to make an Ubuntu prototype featuring MATE, which greatly resembles the old style used by Canonical until 2011.

This is just preliminary work and it's more like an experiment than anything else, but the developer had help from Canonical's Alan Pope and he left a message saying that something interesting might come out of this: “there's something cooking and it smells delicious. Thanks to Alan Pope for the help.”

More at Softpedia
Ubuntu MATE Desktop
Image credit: Martin Wimpress On Google+

So will we eventually see an official Ubuntu MATE release from Canonical? I have absolutely no idea, but I'll be very interested in seeing it if it does happen. It would certainly be a big boon for the MATE project since it would give MATE a prominent position in the pantheon of Ubuntu spins.

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