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Ubuntu’s Release Cycle and its Impact on the Channel

Daylight savings just began, which means it’s the time of year to start looking forward to the spring release of Ubuntu. But could this year’s version, 13.04, be the last one in the biannual release cycle that Canonical has stalwartly maintained for almost a decade? For the moment, that remains uncertain, but the issue, which has produced a stunning amount of debate, could have ramifications well beyond the Ubuntu ecosystem.
Rumors of changes to the Ubuntu release policy have circulated for several months, but Ubuntu developers initially rejected them. The issue re-emerged a couple of weeks ago, however, when Rick Spencer, vice president of Engineering at Canonical, launched a wide public discussion by suggesting on the Ubuntu developers’ email list that a “rolling release” cycle might better serve the Ubuntu community. That would be a major shift away from the current model, under which Canonical introduces a new version of Ubuntu every six months. It designates one out of every four of those releases for “longterm support” (LTS), meaning they receive support and updates for five years.
Spencer has proposed keeping the LTS releases, but doing away with the other ones (which he calls “interim releases,” though that term can be a

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