Ubuntu: What’s Next?
With Ubuntu 10.10, the latest version of the world’s most popular Linux distribution, having made its debut on October 10, it’s time for a new release cycle to begin. To get a sense of what Ubuntu developers might be focusing on going forward, I spoke recently with Canonical’s Steve George, VP of business development. Here’s what he had to say.
But first, a warning: if you haven’t yet given Ubuntu 10.10, or Maverick Meerkat, a try, I think you’re missing out. It looks great, the installation process has been made even simpler and quicker, and with the Ubuntu Software Center having reached maturity, installing applications has never been easier.
As a committed pessimist, I’m usually suspicious of anything that claims to be new and improved. But even I find the new Ubuntu release really fantastic after using it on my production machine for several days now, which means you really ought to download it–whether you’ve been using Linux for years or only recently realized what an operating system is.
What Comes Next
While Ubuntu 10.10 has turned out really nicely, of course, the pessimist in me knows that, as in all worldly affairs, there’s still room for improvement. And improvement–to Ubuntu itself, as well as to the larger user experience surrounding it–is what Steve George promised when we spoke about Canonical’s plans for the Ubuntu 11.04 release cycle and beyond.
Perhaps the area in which Canonical is most heavily invested going forward is Ubuntu One, the file-sharing service that now comes built into Ubuntu. Ubuntu One was introduced about a year ago as a way to sync data between different Ubuntu computers, and has expanded since then to include support for Windows, as well as iPhones and Androids. It’s also the platform for delivering the Ubuntu One Music Store.
George made it clear that Canonical’s ultimate aspirations for Ubuntu One, however, involve placing it at the center of a unique Ubuntu user experience. By supporting “personal clouds,” the company hopes, Ubuntu One will provide a vehicle on which a variety of services can be delivered, via software developed both by Canonical and third parties. Details of how that might work have yet to be spelled out, but this is an area to watch as Ubuntu One continues to carve its own niche and differentiate itself from simple file-syncing applications, like Dropbox.
George also highlighted the continued integration of the Internet into Ubuntu as another of Canonical’s central goals. Observing that most people (those where broadband is too expensive or unavailable, perhaps, excepted) are now connected to the Internet constantly, he promised that Ubuntu development would build on features introduced in previous releases, such as the “Me Menu,” that provide easy access to the Internet in all its forms.
And last but not least, expect to see Ubuntu’s Software Center continue to evolve. It’s already a formidable tool in Maverick, providing a centralized location for adding and removing applications. But with Fluendo’s DVD Player having debuted last month as the first application for sale in the Software Center, Canonical is poised to turn the utility into a major pipeline for delivering commercial software to Ubuntu users.
As George pointed out, “The Software Center is a way for commercial publishers to get twelve million eyeballs on their work”–not to mention a means of generating another revenue stream for Canonical as it competes with more established Linux giants like Red Hat and Novell–and the company is working hard to expand on the application’s commercial offerings.
For now, Canonical’s future plans remain a bit hazy, and users will have to wait at least until the next Ubuntu Developer Summit to see how the visions George described might be implemented. But if Maverick is any indication, the distribution is certainly headed in the right direction.