Canonical launched the latest free operating system, Ubuntu 12.04 LTS - that's long-term support with maintenance updates guaranteed for five years. This version, codenamed Precise Pangolin (it's a type of armadillo) makes the strongest bid yet to oust Microsoft Windows and Mac-OS as the consumer desktop of choice.
Canonical is also pitching to organizations facing expensive upgrades to Windows 7 or 8. 12.04 also includes support for desktop virtualisation from Citrix and VMware, or Microsoft RDP 7.1, so there is a choice of remote delivery of desktop applications, browser-based cloud solutions like Google Docs or the free Libre Office suite bundled with this release.
Canonical's ongoing experiment, the Unity user interface is also maturing into an attractive and stable alternative to the traditional Gnome desktop layout of menus and tool bars. Controversial in previous releases, Ubuntu users either love or hate it. Whether it goes down well with LTS users upgrading from 11.04 remains to be seen. Given the fuss over Windows 8's Metro interface, Canonical is not alone. Unity is intended to improve day-to-day productivity for novices and experts alike, but as we've written here, there's an awful lot of disruption to simple point-and-click launching of common applications.
Canonical has achieved certification with some top computer makers (OEMs) such as HP; Ubuntu 12.04 LTS is already certified to run on over 20 laptops and desktops, with more to follow. But that doesn't mean you'll walk into our local computer store any time soon and see the demo machines running Unity.
Canonical claim Ubuntu 12.04 LTS is more robust (check), boots faster (maybe) and has better power management for mobile devices (yet to be proven).
You can download Ubuntu 12.04 LTS now from www.ubuntu.com/download. There's an on-line product tour and what's new page with a set of FAQ's. RC