Ubuntu's multitouch move: Will it bolster adoption?

Multitouch support will be coming to Ubuntu and the Linux operating system could more competitive with Windows and the Mac OS. The big question is whether multitouch support will matter to potential users.

Multitouch support will be coming to Ubuntu and the Linux operating system could more competitive with Windows and the Mac OS. The big question is whether multitouch support will matter to potential users.

Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth announced the move on his blog and the company's official blog noted:

The world’s expectations of software experience are being raised by advances in mobile computing. We are bringing that revolution to the Linux desktop: for window management and applications. Though our work at the application level has only just started, we are certain that multi-touch and gestures will be central to the way we use Linux applications in future.

This multitouch support lands in the next version of Ubuntu, dubbed Maverick Meerkat. Give Canonical credit for herding the multitouch moving parts. As CNet News' Stephen Shankland noted multitouch standards are few and far between. And some gestures aren't exactly intuitive.

Shuttleworth said that the Ubuntu design team created its own "touch language." He added:

Rather than single, magic gestures, we’re making it possible for basic gestures to be chained, or composed, into more sophisticated “sentences”. The basic gestures, or primitives, are like individual verbs, and stringing them together allows for richer interactions. It’s not quite the difference between banging rocks together and conducting a symphony orchestra, but it feels like a good step in the right direction.

The larger question is whether multitouch support will bolster adoption of the open source desktop OS. Ubuntu is promising, but you wonder if desktop Linux will move beyond the niche. As software moves to become more browser based, it's possible that an open source OS could do well. For now, Ubuntu's multitouch move is about keeping up with other contemporary operating systems. In the future, Ubuntu will have to show some breakthrough with multitouch or design to really make a dent in the OS market.

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