Unity Going Forward

Jason Warner jason.warner at canonical.com
Fri Aug 17 00:51:18 UTC 2012

*Hi Everyone -

Today is the first day that 'Unity' can be used without confusion on
Ubuntu. Unity 2D has been removed as a default option in favor of Unity 3D
across the board. This is a work in progress, so bear with us as we sort
out the details in the transition.

What does this mean? First and foremost, it means we have one codebase
going forward. Secondly, it means that that there will be some regressions
in use cases where Unity 2D fit in the past. Lastly, it means you should
see a unified experience wherever Unity runs.

Ever since Unity was introduced there have been slight gaps in the
experience between Unity 2D and Unity 3D (forever forward called Unity).
With one code base for all form factors we can guarantee a unified
experience. One code base also means we should be able to move faster as we
don't have to split the effort anymore, further accelerating our pace of

But there is a cost to this decision. Unity 2D fit a very specific use case
in very low-end and non-GPU accelerated hardware. By consolidating to Unity
using LLVMpipe for this specific use case we expect to see some regressions
in systems supported. This means that a certain class of hardware will no
longer be supported to run Unity. Unity will run on all GPUs that support
OpenGL 2.0. The earliest GPUs that meet this requirement are at least 5
years old[1]. Even so, we know some subset of cards and hardware that could
previously run Unity 2D will no longer be able to run Unity.

For these cases, we are actively working on Unity running through LLVMpipe
which is a work in progress. Unity through LLVMpipe is CPU bound which
means systems with decently modern CPU architectures and non-GPU
accelerated hardware should be able to run Unity. As I mentioned, this
approach is a work in progress as we tweak the experience and effects to
maximize the performance. We expect this to shake out over the rest of this
cycle and bleed into 13.04 as well[2][3].

Still, with all the above, there will be systems that are simply too old to
run Unity. In those cases it would be necessary to either stick with 12.04
LTS or run another desktop environment[4].

We want this transition to go as smoothly as possible and are working on
supporting as much hardware as we reasonably can. Hopefully we should have
most of the wrinkles worked out by 12.10 release with just a little
hangover for 13.04.

Thank you,
Ubuntu Desktop Manager

[1] - Unity will run on GPUs with support for OpenGL 2.0
The earliest GPUs meeting this requirement are at least 5 years old
Intel i915
NVIDIA GeForce 5200FX and up (5200, 6xxx, 9xxx, xxxGT(X/S))
ATI Radeon 9000 and up, maybe earlier (9000, X1xxx, HDxxxx)

By chip series rather than model series:
Intel: i915
ATI: R300 chip series
Nvidia: NV30 chip series

[2] - We know Unity is showing some graphical corruption inside a VM. Work
to correct this has been done but not landed yet.

[3] - We know Unity won’t work right now on ARM. A solution is being worked
on and should be ready shortly, hopefully before feature freeze.

[4] -
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