Ubuntu – Linux Desktop becoming mainstream?
While other vendors are actively pursuing Mobiles and innovation surrounding it, Dell and Canonical are driving innovation in the desktop, notebook and laptop space. There are ongoing debates on Ubuntu ranging from Canonical Ubuntu being seen as a threat to Microsoft, one-third of Dell notebooks being sold with Ubuntu pre-installed, Ubuntu being used as one another OS in the desktop and not possibly as a replacement for Windows and also about the market share of Ubuntu still not significant enough to be considered mainstream. In spite of all that, definitely Ubuntu has raised sufficient interest about Linux becoming a successful desktop OS.
The term Ubuntu sounds quite unique and so tried to trace the source of it and came to this. Ubuntu is a South African ethical ideology focusing on people’s allegiances and relations with each other. A rough translation of the principle of Ubuntu is “humanity towards others” or “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity”.
Canonical website says “Ubuntu is an entirely open source operating system built around the Linux Kernel. The ideals of Ubuntu Philosophy is that: software should be available free of charge, software tools should be usable by people in their local language and despite any disabilities and that people should have the freedom to customize and alter their software in whatever way they see fit”.
The philosophy indeed sounds good especially when seen in relation to the mobile OS space. While Apple is closed and proprietary raising concerns of vendor lock-in and Google’s Android being open but misused by the telecom service providers who load the instrument with their own software – closed and proprietary – and charging the customers.
From Enterprise context, they say “Ubuntu will always be free of charge, and there is no extra fee for the enterprise edition”. I guess we have to wait and watch to see how much of this they stand by when the adoption really gets significant.
Ubuntu aims at providing the best in translations and accessibility features with the intention of making it usable for as many people as possible. As in any other open community initiative, Ubuntu invites help from the community especially in translating to local languages.
Ubuntu is based on Debian Linux – widely acclaimed, technologically advanced and well supported – and aims to provide an up-to-date linux distribution for desktop as well as server computing. The key strength is the powerful package management system that allows easy installation and clean removal of programs. Ubuntu is shipped with only limited list of packages and aims at providing less number of widely used applications of high quality.
Ubuntu is released regularly – and a new release is made every six months. There are two views to it that frequent releases are leading to buggy software putting off traditional Linux supporters and the other view that the longer term – like 18 months of Red hat – is more suitable for server OS whereas the Desktop users like to have the latest. Since each release is supported for at least 18 months and enterprise edition supported for 3 years, the users do have a choice of using the latest or the relatively bug-free earlier versions.
Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, recently announced the release of uTouch 1.0, Ubuntu’s multi-touch and gesture stack. The multitouch interface that enables the device to detect several simultaneous contact points with a touch screen or trackpad is prominent on iPhone, iPad and Mac laptops. And slowly this more intuitive and physical way of interacting with the computer is gaining as a mainstream approach. This is seen as the response of Canonical to the growing mobile market by bringing the natural tactile experience of the world to the Linux desktop and future innovations are also expected to toe the mobile line.
With Ubuntu 10.10, users and developers have an end-to-end touch-screen framework – from the kernel to the applications. The stack includes an open source gesture recognition engine and gesture APIs that enable applications to obtain and use gesture events from the uTouch gesture engine.
While some see this move of Ubuntu would enable it to improve its market foothold, doubts on how inituitive these gestures are and concerns on lack of standards in this area are being raised. The next releases can be expected to address these more effectively. According to Shuttleworth, the founder of Canonical:
- In Ubuntu’s case, there will be some standards. One convention to be employed is that people will tell the computer what type of operation they want to perform by starting it with a particular number of finger touches–a number that can be changed mid-gesture as needed.
- Rather than single, magic gestures, it would be made possible for basic gestures to be chained, or composed, into more sophisticated sentences.
- The basic gestures, or primitives, are like individual verbs, and stringing them together allows for richer interactions.
Canonical has an impressive list of partners especially so in the cloud space. It also has implementation partners across the globe.
Considering all these, the possibility of Open Source and GNU based Linux getting its due share in the desktop space seems more probable than ever before.