Canonical's desktop Linux OS fitted with new look and feel

Ubuntu 10.04 also features faster boot speed and social network accommodations

Providing an alternative to the Microsoft-dominated desktop, Canonical later this month will offer a version of its desktop Linux OS featuring a new look and feel, faster boot speed and accommodations for social networks.

Canonical 's Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (Long-term Support) Desktop Edition will be available as a free download on April 29, the company said. It will also be pre-installed on a variety of machines this summer. Version 10.04 offers an interface called "Light," providing an integrated, consistent interface, breaking the mold of what has been available for Linux desktops previously, according to the company.

[ See InfoWorld's report on the netbook OS Cannonical also offered a last fall. | Fine-tune your network in two weeks -- for free! InfoWorld's Networking Boot Camp will help you double-check the fundamentals and show you how to optimize your infrastructure. The email classes start Monday, April 12, 2010. Sign up now! ]

"The common perception of a Linux user interface is that it's somewhat ugly and somewhat non-integrated," said Gerry Carr, head of platform marketing at Canonical. Users of version 10.04 gain a consistent interface across all applications, he said.

With its latest desktop OS, Canonical offers more polish, an analyst said.

"Linux in general and Ubuntu specifically have been a credible desktop option for users with basic desktop needs for a few years now," said analyst Stephen O'Grady, of RedMonk. " But it has consistently lacked the polish and aesthetics to appeal to a wider consumer audience. [Version] 10.04 represents an advance towards that goal with an updated, professionally designed theme, social networking features and such that make its addressable market larger."

Boot speed on release 10.04 will be noticeably quicker and "super-fast" on SSD-based machines like netbooks, thus offering faster Web access, according to Ubuntu. With the release, Canonical also is offering Ubuntu 10.04 Netbook Edition, which in addition to faster boot speeds offers faster suspend/resume capabilities to prolong battery life.

For social networks, a "Me Menu" in Ubuntu 10.04 consolidates access to and updating of social networks including Facebook, Digg, Twitter, and Identica. Me Menu also integrates with chat channels, enabling users to talk with others on Google Talk, MSN and other networks.

Canonical provides support services priced from $55 per desktop and notebook user per year.

Unlike the ubiquitous Windows desktop platform, Ubuntu "is free to download," Carr said. The OpenOffice application suite that works with the platform also is free, he said.

"We don't think we need to beat Windows to be successful," said Carr. The company is carving out a base of users, he explained.

Enhanced integration with the Ubuntu One online service and Ubuntu's desktop Linux enables easier sharing and saving of files and folders via the cloud service. Bookmark and contact-sharing has been added. Ubuntu One offers  2 GB of free storage and 50 GB for $US10 per month.

There are thousands of applications running on Ubuntu's desktop Linux variant, Carr said.

Users can find new software via Ubuntu Software Centre 2.0. The new Ubuntu One music store, which integrates with version 10.04, features music from the largest labels and bands available direct to Ubuntu users via the default music player.

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