Is Ubuntu Shooting Itself In The Foot With Its Release Schedule?
by, November 6th, 2009 at 08:07 PM
Ubuntu is one of the newer competitors in the operating system, but in the past few years they've gained a whole lot of ground. Parent company Canonical has focused on making Ubuntu a solid solution for all users, from servers to netbooks, and they've done a pretty impressive job of it. One of the unique features of Ubuntu is a rock-solid six month release cycle, that's so predictable you can practically put in on your calendar years in advance. This is a stark contrast to some software companies like Microsoft, where you might wait nearly a decade for the next version of a terrible operating system to come out (cough . . . Vista . . . cough).
But as I've followed the Ubuntu releases for the past few years, dutifully reinstalling each six months, I've begun to wonder if it really makes sense. Each new version brings a meager set of new features and bug fixes to the plate, and sometimes there is really nothing noticeable. Sometimes it's honestly a little frustrating talking to my friends (mostly Windows users) about the latest version of Ubuntu when they ask what's new. While many sites have articles touting each new feature of 9.10, there really isn't much there. UbuntuOne support? It's cool, but for those that really care, DropBox has been available (and compatible with Linux) for a while.
Now I can definitely see some improvements comparing the recently released Karmic Koala (9.10) with the Fiesty Fawn (7.04) that I started out with. And I definitely feel like the software is moving in a good direction. But unless there really are some solid new features or fixes in 10.04, I'm probably not going to upgrade. I belong to a group sometimes ridiculed in Linux circles - I'm a user. That's right, I don't write software, and I don't spend my evenings and weekends trying to tweak every possible setting on my computer. I just want it to work. And sometimes, the constant reinstalling gets a little old, especially when there are no significant gains from doing so.
I suppose in some ways, it's not even fair to compare the release cycle of Ubuntu to Windows or Mac though. Microsoft and Apple both make money from their software, so they have to have something to sell you in order to release a new system. There has to be big strides made, or users will eye the shiny new one, shrug, and keep on using what they've got. Microsoft learned this the hard way with Vista, and may end up fighting the same battle with Windows 7. But Canonical doesn't really care if you upgrade right now or not. The software is there, it's free for you to use, and they put out the newest version of it every six months for your convenience.
I still can't help but wonder though, how much time and energy are wasted with each new release? How much time does it take to put the whole build together, and get it out to all the right places? What about all the new logos and names? Updating web pages? Would some of that effort be better used in other places? I for one would be happy to wait a whole year for a new system if it meant there would be more features and fixes.
What do you think - does a six month release cycle really make sense? Do you upgrade with every new release?
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