Almost two years ago Ubuntu's 10.04 Lucid Lynx release met with controversy and debate after the user interface was rejigged to display window buttons (minimise, maximise, close) on the left-hand side (as per MacOS) instead of its traditional right-hand side (as per Microsoft Windows).
While such a change is not radical so far as innovation goes it does reflect the willingness of the company to experiment and reject tradition in favour of new things.
The coming April 2012 release, 12.04, codenamed Precise Pangolin, is set to once again breed extreme feelings of like or dislike within its user community but with a change which competing operating system manufacturers will surely be watching.
Specifically, the traditional WIMP metaphor - windows, icon, menus and pointers - a critical part of the GUI over 40 years - may soon be known as the less-pronounceable WIHP if Shuttleworth has his way.
Shuttleworth's vision is to replace the historic 'menu' with his futuristic vision of a 'HUD'. In fact, Shuttleworth dubs his proposed makeover as a user 'intenterface'.
On the one hand this sounds like a ridiculous burden; press 'D' for delete but be forced to trudge through unrelated actions like 'Document Properties' or 'Darker' or 'Dictionary'. On the other hand, imagine just pressing 'P' for Preferences without needing to think, for every app, whether this is under Tools, Options, Edit or other general menu categories.
Shuttleworth pitches the HUD as connecting users directly to what they want, providing screenshots and a video to elaborate.
In Ubuntu 12.04 the HUD will appear wherever the global menu works but is not mandatory. The HUD can be used to supplement the existing menu mechanism if the user so desires.
From here Shuttleworth sees the next evolutionary step being voice control.
In the sad absence of Steve Jobs, could Mark Shuttleworth be the next visionary to massively redefine what it means to interact with a computing device?