Canonical continues to make big strides in delivering Linux in their own unique way with today's release announcement of Ubuntu 9.10 Desktop and Server Editions, both available for free download on October 29.
By releasing two versions of the 9.10 release for such disparate audiences (consumer versus enterprise), the question has been raised recently: what is the focus of Canonical, desktop or server?
For CEO Mark Shuttleworth, the real focus is not either one of these products, nor OEM, nor mobile. To him, the core philosophy for Canonical is to deliver the "full benefits of free software to a variety of users."
Shuttleworth made these comments in today's press call when asked how Canonical would define itself right now, in October, 2009. At first, he elaborated, Canonical decided to proceed in the desktop space, "where Ubuntu could make more of distinctive splash." Now the company is expanding into a number of spaces, like the enterprise, the OEM market, and mobile devices with Moblin. For all of these products, Shuttleworth believes that any free software, when delivered like Ubuntu with its package management and regular cadence, will bring real value to any platform or audience.
The desktop version of Ubuntu 9.10, already with widely praised betas, demonstrates that value. There's a faster boot and login, a revamped audio framework, and improved 3G broadband connectivity to a variety of carriers, as well as a large collection of bug fixes specifically designed to smooth the rough edges of the Ubuntu interface, known as the "100 Paper Cuts" initiative. Bigger value-adds include an updated Ubuntu Software Center, which as subsequent versions of Ubuntu are released, promises to combining the features of the Synaptic Package Manager, Update Manager, and other app-management tools all under one, unified toolset.
According to Shuttleworth, these initiatives all help move Ubuntu towards the ultimate goal of a better-designed user experience. The faster boot, he noted, "gets us well on our way to our goal of a 10-second boot."
There will also be some cloud computing for users in the desktop version, too. The integration of Ubuntu One, touted as a personal cloud, will focus on file management capabilities for users, giving users 2 Gb of online storage space free of charge, with 50 Gb available for US$10/month. As time goes on other functionality, beyond file management, is planned to be added to Ubuntu One, including third-party services.
"We're really shifting the emphasis from personal computers to personal computing," Shuttleworth stated.
The Ubuntu 9.10 Server Edition is a very significant release for Canonical, Shuttleworth added, because it moves the cloud infrastructure into the server environment.
Specifically, Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC) is an open source cloud computing environment based on the same Application Programming Interfaces as Amazon EC2 that allows businesses to start taking advantage of the possibilities of private clouds.
Shuttleworth also emphasized that the server version will also be available on the Amazon EC2 environment as an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) October 29. For the purpose of portability, Ubuntu's UEC images are identical to Ubuntu's AMI, and work done in one environment can be uploaded to the other.
Other product enhancements include: MySQL 5.1 has been added, the directory stack and Single Sign On tools have been upgraded for improved directory integration, and Django now ships as a fully supported framework.
Several kernel improvements were added for better support of Xen (guest) and KVM (host and guest) virtualization, and to improve caching performance. Support for the USB 3.0 protocol has been included to support super speed transfer rates when devices become available.