This mail charts the territory post-Dapper for those of us who like to dream a little.
First things first. The codename of Dapper+1 will be:
The Edgy Eft
And here's why. Edgy is all about cutting edge, perhaps bleeding edge, brand new code and infrastructure. It will be the right time to bring in some seriously interesting but definitely edgy new technologies which lay the groundwork for the next wave of Ubuntu development.
An Eft is a youthful newt, going through its first exploration of the rocky territory just outside the stream. And that's exactly what we hope the development team will do with Ubuntu during the Edgy cycle - explore slightly unfamiliar and uncharted territory that is perhaps a little out of the mainstream.
So dream a little about Xen for virtualisation, Xgl/AIGLX and other wonderful wobbly window bits, the goodness of Network Manager, a first flirt with multiarch support for true mixed 32-bit and 64-bit computing on AMD64, the interesting possibilities of the SMART package manager... and other pieces of infrastructure which have appeared tantalisingly on the horizon.
We can afford to take some risks with Dapper+1, because Dapper has turned out so well. We have a great answer for people who need super-solid and super-predictable results: Dapper is still fresh, will continue to work on modern hardware for some time, and has plenty of legs in its support cycle left to run.
In terms of the management of the release, we will have some fun with the core Canonical team. I'm promising to impose (almost ;-) zero from-the-top requirements for Edgy, this release is entirely up the to development team to envision and implement. Of course, feature proposals need to go through a review and approval process, and we'll make sure everyone has enough on their plate to keep busy during the cycle, but almost everything that lands in Edgy will be driven from the development team, who get to play with whatever new technologies they fancy along the way. So that should give us a nice big bump in infrastructure and bling.
I would encourage members of the community who have been thinking of a cool new feature or plan to seize the opportunity to get it into Edgy.
The tradeoff, of course, will be that some of these new ideas will not land perfectly first time. So there may be shakiness, or outright bumpiness, in Edgy. We will for the first time possibly have to say to new users "Edgy gets security updates etc for 18 months but seriously consider Dapper if you need the most polished platform". I think that's a worthwhile tradeoff, because I think a clean-the-pipes type release like Edgy is a good way for us to re-energise the team and the distro. Risk is good, when you give it a place and a time. And Dapper+1 is the right time for us to take a few risks.
All of this will be managed using the Launchpad spec tracker, now called Blueprint. You can find the current set of "out there maybe" specs for Ubuntu at: https://launchpad.net/distros/ubuntu/+specs
Go ahead and start drawing up braindump specs in the wiki for ideas you would like to get into Edgy, and registering them there. Don't put too much time into the detail of the specs because we should stay focused on the business of polishing up Dapper until June 1st. In the week after the Dapper release we will open up the Edgy archive and start reviewing and prioritising Edgy specs, and two weeks after release we will have the next Ubuntu Developer Summit, where the core team's specs will get finalised and approved.
This "meta cycle" of aggressive new features, slowly converging over a series of releases on a solid and consistent look-and-feel and underlying platform, has worked very well for us over the course of the past two years. We didn't plan it this way, but I suspect the next two to three years will look similar - we'll start of with a release that has a lot of edge and new tech (remember Warty?) and polish that up till we see the timing is right for a really polished enterprise "long term support" release, like Dapper. We've no concrete plans for the next Dapper, only that we'll know a release or two in advance when the time is right.
The past two years have been a privilege and a pleasure. Dapper is the full expression of what we have learned in this first phase, and I have every reason to believe it will be a hit. Once that's out the door, it will be a great opportunity to rock-'n-roll up our sleeves, play with new ideas, kick some new tyres and of course dig some new foundations. We may strike gold, we will likely uncover some dirt, but it should be fun and it should be funky. Let's live on the Edge a while.