Intel (INTC) has decided not to support the Mir display server built into Canonical's forthcoming Ubuntu 13.10 release, which is set to arrive in late October 2013. Most observers think Intel backed away from Mir because the chip giant is embracing Wayland, another display server. Here's the background, and potential implications for Ubuntu and Intel partners.
Canonical embraced the Mir display server to fulfill founder Mark Shuttleworth's vision of a single operating system running across desktops, notebooks, tablets and smart phones. Originally, it sounds like Intel planned to support Canonical's Mir vision. But something apparently changed in August -- with Intel disclosing the Mir rejection in a brief online comment.
Poke around and you'll notice Intel talking a lot about Wayland, another display server. According to FreeDesktop.org, "Wayland is intended as a simpler replacement for X, easier to develop and maintain. GNOME and KDE are expected to be ported to it."
Without mentioning Wayland by name, Shuttleworth in a July 2013 blog conceded that Mir will have competitors. At the time he wrote:
"Of course, there is competition out there, which we think is healthy. I believe Mir will be able to evolve faster than the competition, in part because of the key differences and choices made now. For example, rather than a rigid protocol that can only be extended, Mir provides an API. The implementation of that API can evolve over time for better performance, while it’s difficult to do the same if you are speaking a fixed protocol. We saw with X how awkward life becomes when you have a fixed legacy protocol and negotiate over extensions which themselves might be versioned. Others have articulated the technical rationale for the Mir approach better than I can, read what they have to say if you’re interested in the ways in which Mir is different, the lessons learned from other stacks, and the benefits we see from the architecture of Mir."
Should Canonical partners panic over Intel's Mir rejection? Not really. While that news isn't uplifting, the far bigger concern for Ubuntu resellers, VARs and system builders involves customer and developer reaction to Ubuntu 13.10, which is expected to ship in late October 2013.
As the world increasingly shifts to smartphones and tablets, Canonical's single greatest victory remains on desktop PCs and notebooks -- though the company's cloud server business also sounds like it's raming up nicely. Meanwhile, a lot of big technology companies -- Dell, Microsoft, HP and others -- are trying to adjust to the post-PC world.
So, too, must Canonical.