Ubuntu Linux, Canonical's open source operating system, has been making its biggest headlines lately in the smartphone, NFV and telecom worlds. But it remains central to the desktop Linux ecosystem, too—as the dispelling of recent rumors regarding Linux Mint developers' intention to drop Ubuntu shows.

Linux Mint is a Linux distribution that, traditionally, has been based on Ubuntu. A version of Mint based on Debian Linux, however, has also been available for some time, fomenting speculation that the Mint developer team might be planning to transition away from Ubuntu and use Debian—an open source platform that is less commercial and more comprehensive than Ubuntu—as the basis for building Mint.

(Ubuntu itself is based on Debian, so, in a sense, all versions of Mint descend from that distribution. But there are big differences between the stock versions of Ubuntu and Debian, such as which hardware drivers are included, which matter in the way Mint is built.)

Now, Clement Lefebvre, one of the lead Mint developers, has sought to dispel such speculation. "We've no plans to do such thing," he wrote on Monday in response to the suggestion that the Debian-based variant of Mint might become the project's main product.

This might not seem like news worth caring about if you don't use Mint. But it matters for understanding Ubuntu's role within the world of desktop Linux distributions, where Canonical's OS remains vitally important to third-party projects.

That, in turn, is a sign that, even as Canonical turns much of its attention to promoting Ubuntu for the cloud and mobile devices, the company still has a valuable interest in the niche in which it had its humble beginnings more than a decade ago, when Mark Shuttleworth launched Ubuntu as an open source desktop OS that promised to be easy enough for all of us "humans"—not just geeks—to use.