Ubuntu Linux users that wanted music collaboration, social networking integrations and support for more devices will get it with the Ubuntu 10.04 Long Term Support (LTS) Desktop Edition when it launches on April 29.
The open source OS already had a reputation for being easy to use, so the new features "aren't earth shattering, must-have improvements," said John Locke, head of the Seattle-based open source product company Freelock Computing. The listed enhancements are "just the next set of small niceties that get constantly added to Ubuntu and other Linux distributions" every six months, he said.
The 10.04 release, code-named "Lucid Lynx," claims big speed improvements including noticeably quicker boot times on most machines and "super-fast" boot speeds on SSD-based machines such as netbooks, which run the Ubuntu Netbook Remix version, the company said.
Netbooks have become an important market for Canonical, and the company claims to be shipping millions of units of its Remix OS on netbooks from manufacturers including Sylvania, Toshiba, Dell, Advent and Samsung.
Lucid Lynx leaps to tablets?
But netbooks may not be the end of it. Touchscreen devices, perhaps even including Apple's iPad maybe on deck. There is already discussion among developers about how to make the OS work on "touch" systems such as the new Apple iPad, and Ubuntu support for ARM processors, which the iPad is based on, is growing, said Chris Kenyon, Canonical's VP of OEM Services. Of course Apple might have an issue with that scenario.
Kenyon could not say for sure when a version would be available for iPad, if at all, but that it may be a topic of discussion at the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Belgium next month.
Ubuntu One offers cloud storage
Getting back to the current version, there have been improvements to Ubuntu One, which integrates Ubuntu desktops with online services and provides up to 2 GB of storage for free, or 50 GB for $10 a month. With this feature, users can share files and folders via the cloud, and contact sharing capabilities have also been added.
The new Ubuntu One Music Store, is quite similar to Apple iTunes, but more open, according to Canonical. Ubuntu users access the store through their default music player (Rhythmbox) and buy music, which is stored via Ubuntu One cloud storage, where users can share Digital Rights Management-free music across multiple computers and devices.
"The Music Store goes a step beyond what Apple has been doing, and [Canonical is] light-years ahead of Windows in this regard," Locke said.
Ubuntu version 10.04 also includes a new 'Me Menu' that consolidates the process of accessing and updating social networks including Facebook, Digg, Twitter and Identica, and it integrates messaging tools including Google Talk, MSN, IRC and other channels.
Locke said he expects users to upgrade to this new version quickly, "not necessarily because of these features, but because the upgrade process has been pretty painless for years and you usually get a slightly faster, better computer each time."
Linux-based OSes still only run on less than 1% of all desktops, but Kenyon said interest in Ubuntu has been growing steadily and OEMs and ISVs are more interested in the 10.04 LTS release than any other version. Others maintain that an opening they saw for Linux on netbook class machines appears to be closing as Microsoft backed down on Windows 7 usage restrictions on those devices.
The Windows 7 of desktop Linux?
Canonical and Ubuntu developer devotees said Lucid Lynx is to Canonical what Windows 7 is to Microsoft. "It is the most beautiful computing experience we have ever created," Kenyon said. (Keep in mind, he is a Canonical VP.)
Free downloads of Ubuntu version 10.04 for PCs and netbooks will be available starting April 29. Three years of support, security and maintenance updates are included. It will also be pre-installed on a range of systems sometime this summer.
Users can upgrade directly to Ubuntu 10.04 LTS from the previous Ubuntu 8.04 LTS version as well as the Ubuntu 9.10 release. Support from Canonical for Ubuntu desktops and notebooks cost $55 per year. Ubuntu Linux 10.04 Server Edition is expected to be released simultaneously with new virtualization and cloud computing features.
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