In a post on his personal blog Dec. 26, Shuttleworth resisted the urge to recap everything Canonical and the Ubuntu community have accomplished in the previous year--which I appreciate, since we're already inundated with "year in review" items at the moment. Instead, he focused on what comes next for the Linux distribution that remains one of the most popular for desktop users and is arguably the most aggressive in pushing the boundaries of open source platforms into new frontiers.
One of those frontiers is mobile computing, an area in which Canonical has already invested significantly by deploying Ubuntu on Google's Nexus 7 tablet, the first mobile device capable of running a traditional desktop Linux distribution. Shuttleworth didn't mention any specific new hardware devices that Canonical will target, but he did promise that "2013 will be all about mobile – bringing Ubuntu to phones and tablets." To do that, he said, Canonical will include more mobile developers in the Ubuntu ecosystem while also further tailoring the Unity interface to work well on mobile hardware.
Shuttleworth also wrote about the cloud as a second key area of focus for the Ubuntu community in 2013. Here again, he was not very specific, but he suggested that cloud computing based on Ubuntu is simpler because Ubuntu provides (theoretically) a complete ecosystem for developers and administrators: "Having the same core tools and libraries from your phone to your desktop to your server and your cloud instances makes life infinitely easier." Of course, for now the mobile part of that picture remains little more than a proof of concept, since Canonical has yet to get Ubuntu running on any mobile device beyond the Nexus 7, let alone release cloud tools tailored to mobile platforms. But the company has now at least made sufficient progress on the mobile front that developments such as these are conceivable.
Shuttleworth's final area of emphasis was on spreading Ubuntu in general to as large an audience as possible--which means, he implied, continuing to engage users who previously would not have considered open source platforms. And in this regard, he made clear that he believes the Unity interface, despite all of the controversy it has faced, better serves the needs of the masses than any competing platform.
Making promises on the eve of the new year is easy. Delivering upon them is where things get challenging, and the wide strides Canonical hopes to make in the mobile and cloud areas represent no mean feat. But if Canonical's productivity matches the creativity of Shuttleworth and other leading figures, 2013 could turn out to be quite an impressive year for Ubuntu.