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"Does Natty's Unity require proprietary graphics card drivers?" was a question posted on AskUbuntu and who better to answer this question then Mark Suttleworth himself (who apparently is quite an active AskUbuntu user)? Mark answered that there will be a a 2D implementation of Unity, available in 11.04 as an option and posted a link to further info and screenshots but unfortunately the link cannot be accessed anymore (update: the post has been restored).

Thanks to Google Reader which caches all the posts (and to Bill Filler who initially posted them), here are some Unity 2D screenshots:

Quick list and integrated window controls in panel:

2D Unity desktop

2D applications place:

Unity 2D application place

Unity 2D files place:

Unity 2D files place

Panel with application menu (global menu) support:

Unity 2 global menu

Unity 2D is designed to look almost identical to the original 3D Unity so the user experience should be the same (more or less). The 2D implementation of Unity will be using Qt 4.7 and QML:

Unity 2D’s main goal is to provide a Unity environment on hardware platforms that don’t support Unity’s Open GL requirements. Many ARM platforms fall into this category, so Unity 2D expands Unity’s goodness to a whole new set of platforms.

The software is implemented using Qt/QML for the UI portions of Unity, while utilizing the existing Unity core components, like indicators, bamf, dee, uTouch and places. In it’s current state, many of Unity’s features from Maverick have already been implemented (dash, places, launcher, panel) and others (uTouch, workspace switcher, accordion effect, etc) will be landing over the next few months. We’ve made a significant effort to try and match the visual style of Unity quite closely, so Unity 2D will have the same look and feel as Unity. It’s is installed as it’s own session so it can live side by side with Unity, Gnome, your favorite session, etc...

- Bill Filler, Software Engineer and Engineering Manager at Canonical

Update: Unity 2D is now available in a PPA for Ubuntu 10.10 and 11.04 (video)