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By | Gavin Clarke 27th April 2010 23:27

Ubuntu's Lucid Lynx stalks PC and Mac converts

Returns? We're over that

Canonical says that with the latest release schedule this Thursday, it will win your love for Ubuntu. If not immediately, give it a year - but Canonical will get you.

And by 'you', Canonical means Mac and Windows users.

Chief operating officer and blogger Matt Asay told The Reg that changes in the consumer-oriented Ubuntu 10.04 LTS edition will cause Apple fanbois to reconsider their love for Steve Jobs, while milk-fed Windows users will be less inclined to run screaming to their retailer to return their Ubuntu PC.

"I guarantee you will be impressed with Lucid if you look at it today," Asay told us in a recent interview. "We may not get you today, but we will get you six months later or a year."

The painful experiences that people had with Ubuntu in the past? When they got home, unpacked their new PC, found it wasn't running Windows but some brown piece of software crap, and returned it to the very public delight of Asay's rival Kevin Turner at Microsoft? Those will fade, says Asay.

Linux netbooks had four times the rate of return on machines loaded with Windows, according to one manufacturer in 2008. But Asay sees a brighter future. "The LTS release is a significantly better operating system than Windows," he said. "We may not win over the Mac users tomorrow, but we will impress the Mac users and we will win over the Windows users."

Ubuntu 10.04 packs a number of changes in the look-and-feel, the online services, and performance that target in particular those looking for a second machine - the netbook market. That machine will run a browser, email, IM, and music player.

Let's take the music player. Ubuntu One will be the first Linux distro to offer an out-of-the box online music store and player similar to Apple's iTunes, which works on Mac and Windows. Called Ubuntu One, the service spans millions of songs that can be searched, purchased, and played - minus DRM. The music is actually delivered by partner 7Digital, 50 per cent owned by EMI and whose customers include Adidas, Nokia, CocaCola and Sony.

Social network meets OS

Canonical has also done something neither Apple's Mac, iPhone or iPad or Windows on the PC offers but that's finding a foothold in mobile operating systems: integration of social network services with the actual operating system. This means logging in and posting is seamless and combined, and you don't need to fire up yet another application.

Ubuntu 10.04 LTS uses microblogging client Gwibber to combine streams from Twitter, Facebook, Digg, StatusNet, and such services through a Me Menu.

Performance has been improved specifically to help Ubuntu on netbooks. Canonical claimed boot up times on a standard SSD laptop are now less than 17 seconds. Chris Kenyon, director of business development who leads Canonical's OEM team, told The Reg that where Canonical has worked with PC makers on specific machines to fine-tune Ubuntu start-up, times will be even faster.

"OEMs shipping Ubuntu pre-installed can achieve even faster [results] than that. If we are pre-installing, we can further cut that down. Most users on Ubuntu will notice a really significant speed increase," Kenyon said. "For those users having a really fast boot environment is important."

PC makers of the world rejoice

Fast boot and overall performance is vital for where Ubuntu is going in that second-machine market: netbooks. Ubuntu will be pre-installed on wave of machines from more OEMs outside the gene pool of Dell and MSI in the third quarter of 2010, Kenyon said.

Canonical will work with PC markers between then and now on implementing the frozen ISO build - the build that was released to manufacturing this month and that Canonical is officially due to post as finished code online for download on Thursday. A big target market for these machines are emerging markets in India and China - places outside the US and Europe saturated by PCs and the culture of expecting Windows on your machine.

"You will see more OEMs this year - major announcements will follow 10.04," Kenyon promised. "Netbooks continue to be very strong."

Asay - who came to the Ubuntu 10.04 cycle late, two months shy of the launch in February - said the new release takes the edges off Linux for OEMs who'd hesitated to commit to open source in the past. That's important, as PC makers are desperate for increasing returns on their boxes and won't have to pay a license to Canonical on every single machine they ship that runs Ubuntu 10.04 - thereby helping their margins.

Brown out

"The Dells etc. can't get that same profit margin [on Windows] because they have to shift so much of their money to Microsoft. For me, I look at that and I say we are hearing from the Dells, Lenovos, and HPs if there were credible alternatives we could make higher margin by shipping Linux. Historically, Linux wasn't a good option for those guys to ship. It was a little to hard to use, to geeky and rough around the edges."

The polish will continue after Thursday's release.

Already, the hallmark brown look that caused newbie consumer users to recoil much is being ushered out for something more agreeably blue and Windows and Mac like. It actually features muted purples and soothing oranges. And tuning will continue, as Ubuntu targets devices "between phones and a standard laptop," according to Kenyon.

For Asay, though, Ubuntu 10.04 finally gives contented Windows and Mac users a reason to switch, because it does more than just offer the long-needed parity - it goes further.

"There's been no innovation on the desktop from anyone and one of the things we've had to do is get the Linux desktop to parity. Lucid 10.04 is the first time where I feel we are beyond parity compared to Windows - anyone using Windows compared to this will say it's a big upgrade. Anyone using Mac will say this is very similar and say I can switch to this." ®

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