Ubuntu 10.10 desktop reaches through the cloud

Canonical gets set to launch Maverick Meerkat for desktops and notebooks, which has new cloud features that let users sync files with Windows PCs, Android phones and iPhones
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

The next versions of Ubuntu Linux for desktops and netbooks will launch on Sunday with new cloud features, an updated interface and better links with other operating systems, Canonical has announced.

The software, also known as Maverick Meerkat, will be versions 10.10 of the Linux distribution, the company said on Thursday. They will be available for free download from 10 October, sidestepping the usual Thursday release window to tie the launch in with the 10/10/10 date stamp.

Ubuntu 10.10 Desktop Edition and Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition focus on integrating mobile access to other devices via Ubuntu's personal cloud service. They also introduce "significant performance enhancements", such as multitouch support and minor updates, such as upgrading the desktop environment to Gnome 2.31 from 2.30, according to Canonical. The company had hoped to upgrade to Gnome 3.x in time for the release, but now aims to include it in the next release, Ubuntu 11.04 or Natty Narwhal.

Netbook Edition users will now have a new interface called Unity that is tailored for display on smaller screens, but users will also have the option of Gnome.

Ubuntu One, Canonical's personal cloud service, now has a number of new features, such as the ability to buy commercial software directly from within the Ubuntu Software Centre and the capability of syncing files with devices running other operating systems, such as Windows.

"[The enhancements] make Ubuntu One more robust and available through improvements to CouchDB — the underlying database of the product — as with all core infrastructure tweaks, we have scaled up to support 500,000 subscribers," Steve George, vice president business development for Canonical, told ZDNet UK.

The free Ubuntu One Basic service includes 2GB of storage as standard and provides sharing and syncing options for files, contacts, bookmarks and notes forthe desktop and netbook editions. Additional storage can be purchased for £2.09 per month or £20.99 per year, which gives an extra 20GB allowance.

The service offers the ability to sync and share files between an Ubuntu One account and Windows machines. A beta for the Windows client is due to begin at the end of October, but registrations for the trial are open now.

"For instance, if my employer supplies me with a Windows PC at work, I can share a file I worked on at home on my Ubuntu machine and access it on Windows," George explained.

The new Ubuntu One Mobile Service includes the new option of downloading music directly from the integrated store and streaming it directly to an Android phone or iPhone from a desktop machine.

The mobile app that provides contact syncing is already available to download from the iPhone and Android markets. The Ubuntu One music streaming app for Android handsets will go live on the Android Market on Friday, while the Apple equivalent is still pending approval for distribution on the Apple App Store.

Currently, the music app only supports MP3 streaming. The company has plans to introduce document and video access and streaming options, but a timeline has not yet been set, according to George.

Both the syncing app and the music streaming app are provided for free, but the service is chargeable. George said that UK pricing had not yet been finalised, but that it was expected to be "very similar" to the US pricing of $3.99 (£2.49) per month or $30.99 annually.

The update is also expected to include the photo manager Shotwell, which replaces F-Spot and a revamp to microblogging client Gribber.

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