Beyond Natty: The next version of Ubuntu Linux

Mark Shuttleworth talks about his vision for the November 2011 version of Ubuntu Linux: Oneiric Ocelot.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Well, we dodged a bullet. Instead of Octopoid Octopus, Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu Linux and its parent company Canonical, has chosen Oneiric Ocelot for Ubuntu's November 2011 version name.

Unless you're a film maven, your first question is probably: "What's Oneiric!?" I know it as a film criticism term for dream sequences in a movie. Or as Shuttleworth explained, "Oneiric means "dreamy", and the combination with Ocelot reminds me of the way innovation happens: part daydream, part discipline." I'll buy that. But, let's get down to brass tacks: What does this mean? What can we expect from this version?

For starters, you should keep in mind that the next version of Ubuntu, Natty Narwhal, is going to be quite different from the current version of Ubuntu. The most striking difference is that starting with Ubuntu 11.04, Ubuntu will be using the Unity desktop instead of GNOME 3. In addition, it will the April Ubuntu will be using several new default applications, including Banshee to play music, and its windowing system will be based on Wayland instead of the X Window System.

Those are big changes, and I expect Oneiric Ocelot to introduce far less changes and include a lot more polishing of the new features. Shuttleworth indicates that he sees it in rather the same way: "Our desktop has come together beautifully, and in the next release we'll complete the cycle of making it available to all users, with a 2D experience to complement the OpenGL based Unity for those with the hardware to handle it. The introduction of Qt means we'll be giving developers even more options for how they can produce interfaces that are both functional and aesthetically delightful."

I suspect Shuttleworth wrote that last before the news broke that Nokia seems to be spinning off its Qt business. That's a story I'll look into more deeply later. For now, suffice it to say that both Ubuntu and KDE, which also depends upon the Qt toolkit, have reason to be concerned for its future.

Looking at the business side, Canonical, which now supports OpenStack, Eucalyptus Systems's platform, and Amazon's Elastic Computing (EC2) for its cloud offerings, will be cutting down how many cloud platforms it will support. Shuttleworth wrote, "In the cloud, we'll have to tighten up and make some firm decisions about the platforms we can support for 12.04 LTS [Long Term Support]. UDS [Ubuntu Developer Summit] in Budapest will be full of feisty debate on that front, I'm sure, but I'm equally sure we can reach a pragmatic consensus and start to focus our energies on delivering the platform for widespread cloud computing on free and flexible terms."

Shuttleworth then gave a brief pep-talk on the state of Ubuntu today. "Ubuntu is now shipping on millions of systems from multiple providers every year. It makes a real difference in the lives of millions, perhaps tens of millions, of people."

He concluded, "Natty is a stretch release: we set out to redefine the look and feel of the free desktop. We'll need all the feedback we can get, so please test today's daily, or A3 [alpha 3], and file bug reports! Keep up the discipline and focus on the Narwhal, and let's direct our daydreaming to the Ocelot."

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