After announcing his company was abandoning Unity for GNOME, Shuttleworth posted a thank-you note to the Unity community Friday on Google Plus, but added on Saturday:
"I used to think that it was a privilege to serve people who also loved the idea of service, but now I think many members of the free software community are just deeply anti-social types who love to hate on whatever is mainstream. When Windows was mainstream they hated on it. Rationally, Windows does many things well and deserves respect for those. And when Canonical went mainstream, it became the focus of irrational hatred too. The very same muppets would write about how terrible it was that IOS/Android had no competition and then how terrible it was that Canonical was investing in (free software!) compositing and convergence. Fuck that shit."
"The whole Mir hate-fest boggled my mind - it's free software that does something invisible really well. It became a political topic as irrational as climate change or gun control, where being on one side or the other was a sign of tribal allegiance. We have a problem in the community when people choose to hate free software instead of loving that someone cares enough to take their life's work and make it freely available."
Shuttleworth says that "I came to be disgusted with the hate" on Canonical's display server Mir, saying it "changed my opinion of the free software community."
Full story here.
So? The motto was "Linux for human beings", which covers "user-focused" and, given the implication that other distros were for nonhumans*, "unique"; you don't seem to be contesting "easy to install and use", so all that's left is "concentrates on innovating on the user-facing elements."
Early on, the user-facing elements they "innovated on" were package management, configuration tools, that kind of thing. Once they ran out of innovations there (or I'm sure as they would say, once they had those polished enough that the desktop environment was a worse problem for "human beings"), they moved on to Unity, etc., but to me that's just two phases of manifestation of the same idea.
*As someone who's always believed in making things as simple as possible, but no simpler, and sees Ubuntu's approach as creating hordes of users unaware of, and thus unable to handle, internal detail that matters, I was not unpleasantly surprised to learn that I, my fellow hackers, and really anyone who doesn't view "learning" as a bad, scary thing, were superhumans.
My point was that most OSs should have at least some awareness of making life easier for their users, so if that's the only thing that sets you apart ("we do it better than everyone else") that doesn't really make you unique. Cf. Apple I guess?
Overall I'd say Ubuntu has a positive balance of worth. Maybe they wandered off into the weeds a bit with dubious-privacy-search and Mir and whatnot, but we got Mint and various other grandchildren out of the deal so hey.