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Innovation

Ubuntu Linux tries for the office desktop

There may never be a 'Year of the Linux desktop,' but Canonical thinks there's room for a Ubuntu Linux business desktop.
Asian woman working at a desk in front of a computer and calculator
Kiyoshi Hijiki/Getty Images

Linux runs the world, but it doesn't run the traditional PC desktop -- nor does it seem likely it ever will. 

But, that doesn't mean the Linux desktop can't play a major role on the office desktop. Canonical, Ubuntu Linux's parent company, is trying a new take on its popular Ubuntu desktop

One of these moves is the introduction of Ubuntu Pro beta. This is an expanded security take on the Ubuntu Long-Term Support (LTS) releases. 

Starting with the Ubuntu 16.04 edition and including the later LTS versions, Canonical will offer expanded security coverage for critical, high, and medium Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs) to all of Ubuntu's open-source applications and toolchains for ten years. 

Also: How to install Ubuntu Linux (it's easy!)

Yes, you read that right, you get security patches not just for the operating system, but for all of Ubuntu's open-source applications for a decade. 

Most of these are server programs, such as Ansible, Apache Tomcat, Drupal, Nagios, Redis, and WordPress. But, it also includes such developer essentials as Docker, Node.js, phpMyAdmin, Python 2, and Rust. Altogether, Canonical is supporting more than 23,000 packages. Indeed, it's now offering security for, as Mark Shuttleworth, Canonical's CEO, said, "Security coverage to every single package in the Ubuntu distribution."

Canonical isn't doing this on its own. It's offering free, improved security in partnership with the security management company Tenable. Robert Huber, Tenable's Chief Security Officer, said, "Ubuntu Pro offers security patch assurance for a broad spectrum of open-source software. Together, we give customers a foundation for trustworthy open source."

Also: Linux: AWS now offers Ubuntu virtual desktops for developers and engineers 

Beyond ordinary security, Canonical is backporting security fixes from newer application versions. This enables Ubuntu Pro users to use the Ubuntu release of their choice for long-term security without forced upgrades. Happy to keep using Ubuntu 20.04? No problem. You can run it until April 2030. Knock yourself out.  

This new take on Ubuntu also includes compliance management tools via the Ubuntu Security Guide (USG) and the Ubuntu Landscape management tool. With this, your business can comply with such hardening and compliance standards as certified CIS benchmark tooling and DISA-STIG profiles. Businesses can also access the FIPS 140-2 certified cryptographic packages they need to comply with FedRAMP, HIPAA, and PCI-DSS-related work. 

Why? It's part of Canonical's philosophy of staying committed to its community and making open source easier and safer for everyone. For the most part, Linux desktops today are burdened by a fragmented approach to long-term maintenance.  With Ubuntu Pro, you can be sure your desktop will stay stable and safe for a decade while you focus on your business instead of updating your desktop. 

Also: Cool things you can do with the Linux desktop that you can't do with MacOS or Windows

The Ubuntu desktop has been growing ever more popular for businesses as well as fans. Shuttleworth said, "Over the last 15 years, we've seen steady increases in the enterprise use of Ubuntu. … It's now the world's most widely used Linux."

He continued, "I'm particularly proud of the partnerships that we have with companies like Dell, Lenovo, and HP. These enable anybody anywhere in the world to go online and configure the very latest laptop or PC hardware to arrive with Ubuntu pre-installed. This meets the needs of everyone from students all the way up to very high-end developer use cases." 

Shuttleworth remarked,  "Since we first launched Ubuntu LTS, with five years of free security coverage for the main OS, our enterprise customers have asked us to cover more and more of the wider open-source landscape under private commercial agreements. Today, we are excited to offer the benefits of all of that work, free of charge, to anyone in the world, with a free personal Ubuntu Pro subscription." This, Shuttleworth added, "is not a student edition, it's not a developer-only edition, it's for full commercial use for you and for any business you own for up to five machines."

The Ubuntu Pro desktop also supports Advanced Active Directory (AD) Policies. This includes full Group Policy Object support, remote script execution, and privilege management. Or, if you prefer, you can use Landscape to manage for free up to ten  Ubuntu desktops. 

Users can obtain a free personal Ubuntu Pro subscription at ubuntu.com/pro for up to five machines. This free tier is for personal and small-scale commercial use. Paid plans start at $25 per year per workstation. The standard Ubuntu Pro subscription covers the full set of security updates for all Ubuntu packages.

Also: Ubuntu 22.04: The Linux desktop for work

If you decide to move a large business to Ubuntu, you can combine Ubuntu Pro with up to 24×7 enterprise-grade support coverage. You can also expand your support plan to cover infrastructure programs such as MAAS, LXD, Kubernetes, OpenStack, Ceph storage, Swift storage, and other open-source applications.

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