To begin with, it's worth noting that Shuttleworth made the announcement at all, since he's no longer CEO at Canonical--he was replaced in that role by Jane Silber, in order for Shuttleworth to focus on usability and design.
So the fact that Shuttleworth has continued his tradition of announcing design goals for new releases--even though he made the announcement this time on his personal blog, rather than on the Ubuntu developers' mailing list--is significant.
Make of this what you will. But from my perspective, it looks like Shuttleworth may not be as ready to relinquish his public role as leader of the Ubuntu project as his resignation from the CEO position last December suggested.
Maverick MeerkatIn keeping with another tradition, the new Ubuntu release will bear the name "Maverick Meerkat." Personally, I would have preferred that the honor go to the mandrill, but at least we were spared the mule or monkey.
Development GoalsShuttleworth's post emphasized "light" as one of the chief goals for the new development cycle, which means a focus on netbooks and mobility (apparently it doesn't mean light colors, because Ubuntu's new theme remains pretty dark). Towards this end, the Ubuntu Netbook Edition's interface will be revamped.
I don't think anyone's opposed to a focus on lightness. On the other hand, given the fact that Ubuntu already works quite well on my netbook (without the special netbook interface, which I disliked a lot when I tried it), and that netbook sales are apparently in decline, Ubuntu developers should be cautious not to give too much attention to a limited niche if it comes at the expense of others.
Shuttleworth also promised a continued focus on social networking with a "Social from the Start" initiative. This trend began with Ubuntu 10.04, which included the Gwibber microblogging client by default, as well as easy access to instant messaging and email. The specifics of how Maverick Meerkat will be made more social remain absent, of course, but I'll look forward to seeing them develop over the spring and summer.
The final point of note from Shuttleworth's post is Ubuntu 10.10's devotion to the cloud. This isn't new--Canonical has been pushing Ubuntu's role in cloud computing since the Jaunty release a year ago--but Shuttleworth's announcement made it clear that we can expect to see continuing aggressive pursuit of the server and enterprise market.
Gnome 3?The big question that remains for me, and which has been raised in some of the comments on Shuttleworth's blog, is whether Ubuntu 10.10 will adopt GNOME 3 as its default desktop environment.
Realistically, it's probably too early for Ubuntu developers to make a decision on that point, because it's impossible to know at this early date whether GNOME 3, which is not scheduled to appear until early next fall, will be truly ready in time for the Maverick release.
All the same, GNOME 3 has been the subject of intense discussion lately on this blog and elsewhere, and we'll be looking forward to learning when we can expect to see it in Ubuntu (and at all, since it has yet to be released, of course).