His vision is to make the Ubuntu desktop more a more visually appealing and user friendly experience. "Better than a Mac" has been his motto. There is no doubt that the Ubuntu distribution has come a long way in recent years, but I think the development has been very slow.
From reading his recent comments about Linux developers, I get the sense that the friction between the camps has come to a head. GNOME is basically the same as it was 5 years ago, and Ubuntu is really still just like any other Linux distribution. Will Shuttleworth abandon Gnome and look for a better Linux desktop?
Linux desktops, no matter what distribution you run, is still just a collection of software that has been slapped together from a bunch of developers from all around the world. There is little continuity between user interfaces of applications. The one thing that they got right is stability, and the fact that the can be run on a wide variety of platforms. If you compare for example how Mac's OSX Mail or Time Machine software is integrated amongst is applications to how certain Gnome programs, the difference is striking. With KDE, it is even worse!
"Glued" together operating systems (ie, Linux desktops) are going to fall behind quickly as operating systems with very small footprints that can operate mobile devices take over the desktop market. Look at the success of running OSX on an IPhone. Now there is Google OS getting into the mix.
My belief is that desktops are gradually going to disappear from the home, People will do more of their computing using a handheld device, or slightly larger than handheld device, that can be carried around with them.
If they need a larger keyboard, or monitor, then they would simply plug the device into a docking station at home or work. For these devices a light OS is all that will be needed. The either connect up to the cloud to access their files, or run their applications natively. It will be able to use 3G or wireless, etc.
I think Shuttleworth is on the right track. But will anyone listen?