Canonical has released Precise Pangolin, version 12.04 LTS of its Ubuntu Linux distribution, saying that it is aimed at enterprise users and cloud computing in particular. However, the open source company is still presenting the 32-bit version as the default download, and was unwilling to provide further news on its ambitions to get 12.04 into tablets and TV sets.
LTS designates a version with long term support, which is good for five years. This is a minimum for enterprises, who would be unable to update their systems every six months even if they could afford it.
This is the first time Canonical has shipped the 18-month-old Unity interface on an enterprise version, but Unity has seen quite lot of "push back" from existing users, and a growing market share for, for example, the Mint distribution.
Steve George, Canonical's vice president for Communications and Products, said "we recognise it's been a challenge". However, "we do a lot of user testing and all the testing here shows that Unity is great for new users."
Since the client PC version of Ubuntu has very little market share in enterprises, almost all Pangolin users will be new users.
George said 12.04 had other features to appeal to the "power user audience", such as "HUD, the heads-up display, which takes keyboard shortcuts to the next level."
With regard to making the default distribution 32-bit, George said: "we set out with the intention of making it [the 64-bit version], but we found there were still problems with certain types of hardware -- basically, very old hardware. For us, a core promise of Ubuntu is that 'it just works'."
As Mark Baker, Canonical's Server Product Manager, pointed out, the default server version is, of course, 64-bit.
One of the main attractions of the server version of Ubuntu 12.04 is that it is the reference platform for the OpenStack project code for building cloud infrastructures.
"It's getting a huge amount of traction," says Baker. "I was at the OpenStack conference last week and it's grown to almost a thousand attendees. We're very excited. OpenStack is getting very serious backing from the biggest names in the business: RackSpace, Cisco, IBM, Dell, HP…. HP is basing its public cloud on Ubuntu's OpenStack."
But isn't a rapidly evolving OpenStack incompatible with a distro that promises Long Term Support?
"The six-monthly OpenStack releases will be brought back into LTS," says Baker.
Ubuntu 12.04 LTS is also the first enterprise Linux distribution for ARM-based servers. Although that's a minuscule market, if it exists at all, it could be significant in the future.
As I reported here six months ago, Canonical has also been trying to sell Ubuntu 12.04 for use in tablets and TV sets (Ubuntu aiming for phones and tablets, says Shuttleworth). Indeed, this is one of the main justifications for the simplified Unity interface replacing the Gnome desktop.
George said Canonical was talking to manufacturers, but he was not able to reveal anything at this stage.