Ubuntu is built on Debian's architecture and infrastructure, to provide Linux server, desktop, phone, tablet and TV operating systems. Ubuntu releases updated versions predictably — every six months — and each release receives free support for nine months (eighteen months prior to 13.04) with security fixes, high-impact bug fixes and conservative, substantially beneficial low-risk bug fixes. The first release was on October 2004.
It was decided that every fourth release, issued on a two-year basis, would receive long-term support (LTS). Long term support includes updates for new hardware, security patches and updates to the 'Ubuntu stack' (cloud computing infrastructure). The first LTS releases were supported for three years on the desktop and five years on the server; since Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, desktop support for LTS releases was increased to five years as well. LTS releases get regular point releases with support for new hardware and integration of all the updates published in that series to date.
Ubuntu packages are based on packages from Debian's unstable branch: both distributions use Debian's deb package format and package management tools (APT and Ubuntu Software Center). Debian and Ubuntu packages are not necessarily binary compatible with each other, however; packages may need to be rebuilt from source to be used in Ubuntu. Many Ubuntu developers are also maintainers of key packages within Debian. Ubuntu cooperates with Debian by pushing changes back to Debian, although there has been criticism that this does not happen often enough. Ian Murdock, the founder of Debian, has expressed concern about Ubuntu packages potentially diverging too far from Debian to remain compatible. Before release, packages are imported from Debian Unstable continuously and merged with Ubuntu-specific modifications. A month before release, imports are frozen, and packagers then work to ensure that the frozen features interoperate well together.
Ubuntu is currently funded by Canonical Ltd. On 8 July 2005, Mark Shuttleworth and Canonical Ltd. announced the creation of the Ubuntu Foundation and provided an initial funding of US$10 million. The purpose of the foundation is to ensure the support and development for all future versions of Ubuntu. Mark Shuttleworth describes the foundation as an "emergency fund" (in case Canonical's involvement ends).
On 12 March 2009, Ubuntu announced developer support for 3rd party cloud management platforms, such as for those used at Amazon EC2.
Beginning with version 10.10, Ubuntu Netbook Edition used the Unity desktop as its desktop interface. Starting with Ubuntu 11.04, the netbook edition has been merged into the desktop edition and Unity became the default GUI for Ubuntu Desktop.
Mark Shuttleworth announced on 31 October 2011 that Ubuntu's support for smartphones, tablets, TVs and smart screens is scheduled to be added by Ubuntu 14.04. On 9 January 2012, Canonical announced Ubuntu TV at the Consumer Electronics Show.