An all-snap Ubuntu desktop is coming — and sooner than you might think!
According to Canonical’s Oliver Grawert, the next long-term support release of Ubuntu will be available to download in 2 versions: a classic, deb-based version (default) and, for the first time, an immutable, snap-based build for enthusiasts to experiment with.
You can’t see me right now but I assure you I’m pulling my best faux-shocked face.
Why the snark? Well, let’s face it: an all-snap Ubuntu desktop is something of an inevitability. If I’m surprised by anything it’s not that it’s happening, more that it has taken this long to happen at all!
Of course, the new snap-based desktop build won’t be the default, i.e. the version most people will choose to use. It’ll be an alternative download that those more willing to put up with “pain points” can kick the tyres on.
Even so, it’s arrival is a huge step forward.
Ubuntu Core launched in 2015 as a snap-based, immutable version of Ubuntu tailored to IoT, embedded devices, and other (non-desktop) purposes. It’s been fairly successful. As you read this it’s out there, humming away in digital signage, robots, drones, and so on.
But Ubuntu Core isn’t a desktop product. You can install Core on a Raspberry Pi 4 (among other devices) and (try to) install a desktop on top of it, but it’s not explicitly geared for that purpose.
This will be.
Immutable desktop distros are the trend du jour right now, with the likes of Fedora Silverblue and EndlessOS blazing a trail. They offer benefits over traditional OSes, including better security and reliability from a read-only file system, transactional updates, and easy rollback of changes.
Now, with CUPS (i.e. the Linux printing stack) getting snap’d in Ubuntu 23.10, and most of Ubuntu’s other vital desktop components either snap’d up or snap-compatible (yes, even graphics drivers) it seems the stars — or the packages — have aligned to make Ubuntu’s spin on things a reality.
You don’t have to venture far in the Linux community to find criticism of snap — not all of it unearned, granted. But could the emergence of all-Snap desktop provide the packaging format with an opportunity to showcase what it can do?
I think it could.