Rolling Releases Make no Sense for a Linux Distribution Like Ubuntu
Since then, Rick Spencer, Engineering Director of Ubuntu, has corrected this article. This is very reassuring to hear, because a general movement to rolling releases in the current environment and target market for Ubuntu would just not make a lot of sense.
Ubuntu direction for a long time has been to create a very user-friendly linux distribution that allows non-IT professionals to be able to use their computer for their purposes instead of needing a lot of knowledge to install and maintain their computer systems. Furthermore, with the current changes at SuSE, Ubuntu now has the best position to also be a dominant player in the business desktop environment. A second direction is Ubuntu's push into the server market with a lot of work done in the areas of virtualization and cloud computing.
The target markets require in particular a stable and defined system. In particular system administrators who have to maintain 100s and sometimes 1000s of servers or desktops need to have a baseline configuration which allows them to know that two particular systems are not different in the software releases that are installed. Rolling Releases would not be able to manage fixed configuration in the same way as the current cadence mixed in with long term support releases does.
The areas which rolling releases would be beneficial are mobile devices and a active developer community. Linux fanatics with lots of knowledge often want to have the bleeding edge of technology and are often bored with stable releases. Furthermore they might have multiple computers which allows them to have a stable system for production and other "test" systems they can at any time re-installed when they get instable. For this purpose, daily or nightly build repositories in form of PPAs, as they are currently more and more done, are fully sufficient, a rolling release cadence for the broader public is not necessary.
On the other hand, there are mobile devices. However, the complexity for those are far smaller than for full fledged linux systems. Furthermore, there needs to be a distinction between the base OS and the applications used. It certainly makes sense to allow upstream projects to offer releases in their own cadence through an application store like the software center offered by Ubuntu. However, I would assume, the base OS might still be better off with a regular release schedule in order to allow the upstream projects a proper stability to test their rolling releases against.
It seems reasonable to assume that Mark Shuttleworth's comments were targeted more in the direction of mobile devices. The leap by online authors to equate this with a total change of the Ubuntu development infrastructure seems rather foolish and let's one wonder if this was one of those "Oops I did it again - let's bash Ubuntu" attitudes again. In particular since such news could potentially confuse lots of partners, developers, and users of Ubuntu and could undermine its current strong position.