Ubuntu Linux 11.04's Target Audience: Casual Windows Users

Ubuntu Linux 11.04's Target Audience: Casual Windows Users

Summary: Canonical has big plans for its Ubuntu 11.04 desktop Linux. It wants to capture casual Windows users using a first-person shooter game style desktop.

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Do you use Windows not because you like it or there's some specific Windows-only application that you must use but because it's what came on your PC? If that's you, Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, wants you to try their soon to be out Ubuntu 11.04 Linux desktop.

When I talked with Canonical marketing manager Gerry Carr, I hadn't expected him to say that. Over the last few years, Linux desktop vendors haven't really tried to take on Windows head-on. Oh, to be certain, I think the Linux desktop is great. I'm writing this story on Mint 10, an Ubuntu variant, and I use openSUSE 11.4, Fedora 14, and MEPIS 8.0 on other PCs and laptops. But, I know most people are content to use Windows because that's what comes on their PCs. Carr thinks though that with Ubuntu 11.04's new desktop interface and a few other tricks up Canonical's sleeve, Ubuntu can win over "casual Windows users."

Carr told me that Canonical has been working on "transforming Ubuntu to bring it to mainstream market. Yes, it has better security; yes it's open source; but Ubuntu, and other desktop Linux distributions, lacked real reasons to switch for Windows users who don't think about operating systems. We needed to develop a better choice for default Windows users. We need to break them out the jail of habitual Windows use." Canonical's way to do that is with Unity.

Besides just having an interface that doesn't look like either most versions of Windows or Linux, Unity is meant to work in a different manner. For example, Carr notes that while you can use folders and files to organize your files, you don't have to. "Search has become essential to how we organize Ubuntu. You no longer have to remember where you put files. Unity will take care of finding them for you."

Another change is in how you work with active applications. With Unity's indicators, application icon controls that enable you to see what's what with your active programs and enable you to work with them, you can use an application's functionality without needing to minimize one program and maximize the other. So, for example, "if you're playing music using Ubuntu's media-player Banshee you can use the volume control indicator to select tracks to play rather than going to Banshee, The communications indicator gives you access to all your instant messages and e-mail in the same way.

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Unity as First Person Shooter

The idea for this kind of non-invasive heads-up information display and control comes from, according to Carr, first person shooter games. "You want to know how much ammo you have, you want to know what your buddies are saying, but at the same time your attention can still be focused on the job you have at hand."

Both Windows and Linux users, said Carr, in testing liked the Unity desktop a lot. "It was different, of course, but they didn't find it difficult to use. The feedback was very positive and they found the small learning curve was worth it for the great benefits."

The point of all this is to make a desktop that lets you to "Less of you as administrator and more of a user." Personally, I don't care for that. But, then I wouldn't be a Linux user if that had been the case. Generally, speaking Linux users love getting their hands dirty with system internals. If we were talking cars instead of operating systems, old-school Linux users would be the sort who do all their own engine work on their manual-transmission, sports cars. But, Unity isn't meant for us, so much as it is for casual Windows users and people who just want their computer to work with as little fuss and muss as possible. For these, Unity might be exactly what they want... if they can see it.

I asked Carr how Canonical plans on getting Ubuntu 11.04 in front of more users, and he told me that the company has numerous active original equipment manufacturers (OEM) deals in the work. Thus, you can expect to see a lot more PCs and laptops with pre-installed Ubuntu on sell by early May.

Would-be Ubuntu users will also, "starting in early May, be able to go to Ubuntu.com and use an Ubuntu single sign-on system to play with the 2D version of Ubuntu 11.04 from an Ubuntu cloud-based instance." In short, Carr concluded, "We're trying to break down all the barriers to entry that we can, especially for Windows users and we think the online trial will be a major accelerator."

I'll give the credit for trying. It's certainly a different way to bring a new desktop to Windows users. In my own work with Unity, I have to say I like it more than I thought I would and it's amazingly fast especially considering it's a beta. I think it just might be that Ubuntu may indeed bring a substantial number of Windows users over to Linux. I'm not willing to bet on it through.

Related Stories:

Beyond Ubuntu CDs, Ubuntu Devices?

The new Ubuntu Desktop: Unity

How to disable Unity and go back to the classic interface in Ubuntu 11.04 'Natty Narwhal'

First Look: Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal) Beta 1

Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, Linux, Open Source, Software, Windows

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218 comments
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  • Page 2?

    Nice change in Ubuntu. I am an ubuntu user since 2 years now and looking forward for the new 11.04. Counting days now...ETA 9 :)

    But where's page 2 of the article? :P
    andyghiuta
    • RE: Ubuntu Linux 11.04's Target Audience: Casual Windows Users

      @andyghiuta
      Sorry but most casual windows users are looking to move to Apple... follow them!
      Hasam1991
      • RE: Ubuntu Linux 11.04's Target Audience: Casual Windows Users

        @Hasam1991
        Sorry, but most casual windows users aren't looking to move anywhere.
        mdemuth
      • RE: Ubuntu Linux 11.04's Target Audience: Casual Windows Users

        @mdemuth Amen. I don't want Uncle Jobs knowing my every move.
        Imrhien
      • RE: Ubuntu Linux 11.04's Target Audience: Casual Windows Users

        @Hasam1991
        when they drop their prices, or provide me with a reason why i should switch...i.e let me test out the desktop, without having to completely overhaul my studio for roughly twice the amount of money for hardware and limited choices of software and then join the cult drink the Kool-Aide in the jungle somewhere ( I think it's Jobstown ) etc.. etc.. i'm running XP Doin' fine, playing around with linux...
        Grey Ash
      • RE: Ubuntu Linux 11.04's Target Audience: Casual Windows Users

        @Hasam1991
        Apple has been around as long as Microsoft.
        Guess what casual users chose to use for the last 3 decades?
        12312332123
      • RE: Ubuntu Linux 11.04's Target Audience: Casual Windows Users

        @Hasam1991
        never
        dhays
      • RE: Ubuntu Linux 11.04's Target Audience: Casual Windows Users

        @Hasam1991 Most Windows users aren't looking to move anywhere. And Apple is a terrible alternative. They are expensive for no reason, and aren't even as complete as linux. Infact they still dont have fully working stable 64 bit. (All macs boot 32 bit by default).
        Jimster480
      • RE: Ubuntu Linux 11.04's Target Audience: Casual Windows Users

        @Hasam1991
        I'm curious as to where you get that idea. Or were you being sarcastic? Either that or perhaps you may not know the definition of a casual user. I'd be more inclined to say that the casual users are more likely to stay with Windows though perhaps a small number would move to the new Ubuntu since casual users generally have less special needs. The move for casual users from Windows to Apple only makes sense for casual users with money burning a hole in their pocket.
        Viva la crank dodo
      • RE: Ubuntu Linux 11.04's Target Audience: Casual Windows Users

        @Hasam1991 <br><br>Dude, seriously. Every article I read has a comment from you saying "YAY APPLE!" <br><br>If you don't have any more semantic content to add than that, then please do us all a favor and shut up. You don't make a good Apple spokesman. Moreover, you may have noticed, this article is NOT about frigging Apple.
        apostate
  • RE: Ubuntu Linux 11.04's Target Audience: Casual Windows Users

    Different is not better, better is better. As far as I'm concerned everything post Windows 2000 is just fluff and mostly moving in the wrong direction.
    wkulecz
    • RE: Ubuntu Linux 11.04's Target Audience: Casual Windows Users

      @wkulecz

      So what's the right direction?
      Michael Kelly
      • RE: Ubuntu Linux 11.04's Target Audience: Casual Windows Users

        Kill Desktop Linsucks. That's the right thing to do.
        nomorebs
      • Kill Linux desktop?

        Why in the world would they do that?
        Michael Alan Goff
    • RE: Ubuntu Linux 11.04's Target Audience: Casual Windows Users

      @wkulecz Have you seen Windows 7? Because its pretty close to home like Windows 2000 was.
      Jimster480
    • RE: Ubuntu Linux 11.04's Target Audience: Casual Windows Users

      @wkulecz

      ..booting Windows 2000. Forever alone.
      emzak
  • What was so difficult in the classic Gnome 2 desktop?

    I really think the classic Gnome 2 desktop is far easier than Unity. More reliable and stable as well..... I fail to see why Windows users would prefer Unity.

    But then again, I may be wrong. Although I don't like Unity, I do admit that it's daring and innovative. Perhaps it'll win the hearts and minds of Windows users, who knows...
    pjotr123
    • RE: Ubuntu Linux 11.04's Target Audience: Casual Windows Users

      @pjotr123 I like it a lot less than I like the ideas behind GNOME 3. For me this might well be the moment I move off Ubuntu (on the desktop - probably still use it on the server). I **might** replace Unity with GNOME 3 and stick with it, though a "just install it and it has GNOME 3" option is probably preferred (yeah, a bit lazy).

      Now I might absolutely hate GNOME 3 once I've used it, but I have used Unity... and I don't like it.
      jeremychappell
      • RE: Ubuntu Linux 11.04's Target Audience: Casual Windows Users

        @jeremychappell In 11.04, you can still choose the classic Gnome 2 desktop when logging in. Click your user name in the login screen and then click on "Ubuntu" in the lower panel. Then choose Classical (no effects).

        So luckily, there's no immediate need to change desktop. I suggest waiting with Gnome 3 until Ubuntu 11.10; it'll have matured and will work better....
        pjotr123
      • RE: Ubuntu Linux 11.04's Target Audience: Casual Windows Users

        @pjotr123

        Sweet! I haven't messed with any betas, that sounds killer!
        thebaldguy