These steps follow up on words that Mark Shuttleworth spoke not long ago, seeing Linux as the platform that will rival both Microsoft and Apple in the near future. Desktop “ease of use” is something that Microsoft capitalized early on, and is part of the reason they have the overwhelming number of desktop users that they do. There was an interview with Mr. Shuttleworth a few months ago that hinted, albeit slightly, that Ubuntu was being pushed in this direction.
Their “funded developers” will apparently be tackling many areas of Linux desktop integration, including core components like X, GTK and QT. Improving these, along with improvements to user interfaces, are admirable goals. It may also change the perspective that some have towards Canonical, in that they do not give much back to the community that their company is based upon.