Canonical has redoubled its efforts to lure consumers to its Ubuntu desktop Linux OS, revising the user interface for netbooks and tweaking services to better integrate Windows and smartphone users.
Due to be made available for download on 10 October, Ubuntu 10.10 Desktop Edition, or 'Maverick Meerkat' as it has been known in its beta cycle, the main improvement is that the Ubuntu One Cloud service can now be used to synch with Windows PCs, Google's Android, and Apple's iPhone.
At the same time, Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition features a new user interface called 'Unity', tuned the company said, for smaller screens and a stripped-down set of activities.
As has been the case for some time, the accent is on working with Windows rather than supplanting it, making money from the services that the company is building around the free-to-download desktop OS. Future versions will feature a new Windows client for synchronizing files from the desktop, the company said.
"Ubuntu 10.10 for desktops and netbooks is our most consumer-friendly release yet," said Canonical CEO, Jane Silber. "Ubuntu One's personal cloud services will put Ubuntu at the heart of many users' computing worlds even when they need or prefer to use other platforms."
The company is also beefing up the Ubuntu Software Centre, which now allows users to buy add-on commercial applications, supplementing the free ones that have always featured.
The Ubuntu One Mobile Service, compatible with Android and the iPhone, lets users stream music and to these devices and synch contacts, depending on the storage they have purchased over and above the free 2GB offered.
A question nags: why would anyone want to add a second operating system to their lives, no matter how good, when they've already invested in Windows?
The answer is that there do seem to be a growing band of users who resent paying simply to run Windows and applications such as Office, but who are willing to buy add-on services and applications. However, those same users still have to live with Windows and their smartphone while at work and so need ways to make the worlds work together.
Ubuntu 10.10 Desktop and Netbooks editions do seem to be driving with the behavior of a subset of motivated consumers rather than against it.