Shuttleworth hints at Ubuntu's future with latest name

Canonical's founder has revealed the name for the next-but-one version of the Linux distro, saying it will reflect the graphical enhancements and ARM optimisation of Ubuntu 11.04
Written by David Meyer, Contributor on

Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth has revealed the name for the next-but-one version of Ubuntu: Natty Narwhal.

The South African entrepreneur said in a blog post on Tuesday that the name reflected the enhancements in graphics that Ubuntu 11.04 will bring and the Linux version's improved use of graphics hardware. He also said the reference to the tusked Arctic whale would be appropriate for a 'cool' version of the operating system that is optimised for ARM's low-power-consumption chip architecture.

Narwhal image

The narwhal embodies the best characteristics of the upcoming Ubuntu version, Canonical founder Shuttleworth said. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Ubuntu versions are always named alliteratively, always refer to animals — real or imagined — and always follow the progression of the alphabet. Version numbers are based on the year and month of the release, so Natty Narwhal is scheduled to come out in April 2011.

"We have this whole design thing in full flow, which is making Ubuntu sleeker and more stylish, as well as making it smoother for those who just want to get stuff done," Shuttleworth wrote. "We'll make the N release the best-dressed ever.

"But classy covers don't equate to good reads — we want style and substance to meet and get along famously. Once Maverick [Meerkat, or Ubuntu 10.10, due on 10 October] is out the door, we'll be turning our attention to making the most of the amazing capabilities of modern graphics hardware, both for outer beauty and for inner efficiency."

Shuttleworth wrote that Canonical is "putting a lot of work into chips and architectures... that keep cool", linking at that point to the website of Intel rival ARM, whose chip architecture dominates the existing mobile phone and burgeoning tablet markets. "It would be nice to have a code name which reflects that goodness," he added. "Some sort of mascot for a cool planet would do the trick.

"The Narwhal, as the closest thing to a real live unicorn, is an auspicious figurehead as we lay down the fabric from which dreams will be woven," Shuttleworth added. "Dreams of someone's first PC, dreams of someone's first million instances in the cloud: whatever your vision of the future, we hope the Natty Narwhal will have something to offer."

In the interim, Maverick Meerkat will provide multitouch compatibility, Shuttleworth revealed in a separate blog post on Monday. Neither Maverick nor Natty will be long-term support (LTS) versions of Ubuntu, which are the type most recommended for enterprise use. The most recently released version of the OS, Lucid Lynx, is an LTS version, and Ubuntu's history suggests the next LTS release will not arrive until 2012.

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