What's coming in the new Ubuntu Linux desktop?

I'm already using the beta of the forthcoming version of Ubuntu 10.04 and I like it a lot. I decided to ask the good people at Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, what they thought about the new Ubuntu, scheduled to arrive on April 29th, and this is what Gerry Carr, head of platform marketing had do say.

One thing I noticed in looking at the beta of Ubuntu 10.04 was that Ubuntu, more than ever, is becoming the Linux desktop distribution for new users. I was right. Carr said, "We want new users." Ubuntu has never been the distribution for Linux purists or experts. "We've always felt that one of the most important things that we can bring, hopefully, to open source is popularity as a desktop OS."

Carr continued, "Open source projects have found success but are delivered on proprietary formats, which is great but not ideal. Delivering great open source or proprietary experiences but on an open source platform, and in a way where new users feel they are getting the best experience (not just best for free), is the real win-win."

Carr wasn't hinting, however, about Ubuntu not including Mono, Novell's Microsoft .NET-compatible set of software tools, applications by default. While some open-source fans really dislike Mono, thanks in no small part to Novell's Microsoft partnership and Mono's reliance on .NET, if anything, Ubuntu seems to be incorporating more of Mono in its default distribution.

When I asked Carr what he thought Ubuntu 10.04's best five new features were he told me, the New theme; Social from the start; Ubuntu One Music Store; Boot Speed and "Long Term Support (not new but new to many users)." I'd agree with that list though I still think including a PDF manual, although it's not very exciting, is going to prove a real win for new users.

I hadn't mentioned Ubuntu One Music Store in my coverage, and that's my mistake. The music store, Ubuntu's answer to Apple's iTunes store, is the first major integration of an open-source music player, Rhythmbox and an online music store for Linux. Behind the store is 7digital, an online music distributor with over 4 million MP3 songs and no DRM (Digital Rights Management).

That's not the only partnership that Canonical will be improving with this release. Carr told me that, "Dell intends to ship 10.04 and we expect to see many others ship it post-release on many form factors."

However, you won't see Ubuntu 10.04 powering up any Linux iPad clones. Carr explained that while "We are enabling a multi-touch kernel in the 10.04 release; this is very much a first step. We are not recommending anyone starts to run multi touch-based devices with Ubuntu just yet. Touch is clearly playing a very important role in how many people use devices and we want to support that. There is no announcement imminent on an Ubuntu tablet but we definitely want to see Linux experiences like that."

That's not to say though that some of Ubuntu's intellectual DNA may not show up in a tablet sooner than later. Canonical has been continuing to work with Google on Chrome OS. "Chrome OS took some of the fundamentals of Ubuntu and has built a very different experience on top of it. We actually see this as a growing trend. Why reinvent a great deal of work that Canonical has done with regards to the kernel tweaks, hardware and peripheral testing and a thousand other tasks that are required to build a great Linux consumer experience? We would encourage companies to pursue this route and engage with Canonical to explore the fastest and best way to get to market. "

It sounds to me like besides looking forward to seeing the new version of Ubuntu, you can also expect to see a lot of PCs and devices with Ubuntu already pre-installed on them--in one form or another--within the next few months.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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