I don't think this is the problem with recent Ubuntu releases.
That's an interesting attitude.
Backwards compatibility is a generally regarded as a feature. If you read Raymond Chen's blog about the length's Microsoft went to in order to support old software on new versions of Windows you'll see how important some operating system vendors regard it.
Linux generally seems to have an interesting attitude to backwards compatibility. "It works on old hardware" is something that used to be regarded as a huge benefit of Linux.
These days - especially for Ubuntu - it doesn't seem to be regarded as a feature at all. Additionally Ubuntu seems to introduce breaking API changes in every release. I find that to be quite a surprising route to take for an OS that is trying to build desktop share.
I'd be quite interested to hear why people think they do this. Is backwards compatibility just not seen as important at all or is there a bigger strategy here?
They are not obligated, but it is in their best interests to build a reputation of not breaking things.
I do think that Linux lacks a reputation of not breaking existing programs as much as it lacked a reputation of ease of use before Ubuntu.
Now, ease of use, and not breaking things? I bet that kind of reputation is worth millions of dollars.
Even Linus agrees about it, when it comes to the kernel breaking userland programs. The kernel developers have no control over userland programs. Nonetheless, the kernel developers try very hard not to break userland programs.