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New Ubuntu for desktops adds Windows file integration

Ubuntu 10.10 for desktops and netbooks includes Windows file integration via cloud services and an application portal.

Canonical Ltd.’s latest Ubuntu desktop release adds features specifically aimed at winning Microsoft defectors during the Windows 7 transition. The goal is to eliminate some of the “why nots” that have prevented Windows users from making the leap to Linux desktops.

For example, Ubuntu 10.10 desktop and netbook editions add a new synch capability for Windows file integration.  The OS will be available October 10.

Linux partisans hope that as more Windows XP shops weigh a Windows 7 upgrade, they will consider another option, although it is unclear how many are doing so. According to StatCounter Global Stats, Windows 7 had 19.4% total market share as of August, compared to Vista's 17.7% worldwide. But Windows XP, after 10 years on the market, remained the top Windows dog with 55.4% share in that period.

For those who use their PCs largely for Internet access, the conventional wisdom is that the underlying OS no longer makes that much of a difference, so there’s little reason to pay a premium for Windows.

Canonical claims 12 million Ubuntu users on PCs and netbooks today. That still translates into a small percentage of an estimated 1.34% market share for all Linux desktop OSes. By most accounts, Windows still accounts for nearly 90% of all desktop operating systems.

Linux backers maintain that Ubuntu’s desktop OS is making headway even in that Windows-centric world because it’s so simple. “I would attribute the bulk of the rise of its use is from people who haven't used any Linux before,” said John Locke, founder of the open source IT consultancy Freelock Computing in Seattle. “Mac and Windows users see it as an easy Linux.”

Ubuntu 10.10 offers personal cloud, app portal
With the new Ubuntu One “personal cloud,” users can synch files via the cloud, so if an Ubuntu netbook customer has a Windows PC and wants to bring some Windows files and folders across to that device, now they can.

Files are synched up or down via a SaaS cloud service provided by Canonical. In addition, the files synched through Ubuntu One can be shared with family or friends regardless of operating system – be it Google Android, Apple’s iPhone OS or Microsoft Windows, George said.

The free Ubuntu One Basic edition includes 2GB of storage, the “personal cloud” synching capabilities, access to music from the integrated store and the beta client for Windows integration. Users that need extra capacity can purchase 20GB blocks of additional storage on demand.

A new Ubuntu One Mobile service lets users access applications on smartphones. Users can also use it to stream their music and synchronize contacts.

Ubuntu 10.10 also includes Ubuntu Software Centre, a portal from which users can access free and commercial software applications, games and tools.

“The strength of Linux and Ubuntu is that there are thousands of free apps, but how do you find them and use them?” said Steve George, VP of business development for Canonical. Software Centre helps with that.

For netbooks, there is a new interface called Ubuntu Unity that makes applications easier to use on small screens. The Unity interface is also touch- and gesture-enabled with a touch-based interface for such devices.

Both Ubuntu 10.10 netbook and desktop editions will be downloadable free from the Ubuntu website. Existing Ubuntu users can upgrade directly from Ubuntu 10.04 LTS.

Ubuntu One Basic is available for free download and the new Ubuntu One Mobile costs $3.99 per month or $39.99 annually.

An Ubuntu One 20GB storage package costs $2.99 per month or $29.99 annually.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, Senior News Writer.

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