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Canonical steals Windows 8.1's thunder with Ubuntu 13.10 release

The firm's first OS that unites the desktop and smartphone
Thu Oct 17 2013, 13:01
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LINUX DISTRIBUTOR Canonical has announced its free Ubuntu 13.10 Linux operating system (OS) release, which is available for both PCs and smartphones from today.

Canonical is touting the Ubuntu 13.10 release as the "first step to mobile [and] PC convergence" as it unites all devices.

Oddly enough, Ubuntu 13.10 arrives on the same day as Microsoft's remedial Windows 8.1 service pack update.

We spoke to Canonical founder and Ubuntu creator Mark Shuttleworth ahead of the launch, who told us that Ubuntu 13.10 represents a "very significant push towards our first mobile devices".

"13.10 is the release that has the 1.0 of phone experience for a range of supported devices but it's also the release that precedes our major enterprise release so it has a full complements of the things we think will be right at the centre of enterprise IT for the next couple of years," Shuttleworth said.

Some of the new feaures Ubuntu 13.10 brings include a range of mobile core apps created by the Ubuntu developer community such as a browser, calendar, clock, weather, and calculator.

Another update seen in the update is "Dash", which brings content straight to the desktop, which searches more than 50 online sources through "scopes".

"Scopes" refers to another feature called "Smart Scope", which works across both PCs and phones and combines results from many different areas automatically. It learns individual user preferences so that search results improve for each user over time. In Ubuntu 13.10, the Dash includes new search scopes such as Wikipedia, Amazon, Google News and Flickr, and can be configured for privacy or specific search preferences.

More importantly for those looking to use Ubuntu on smartphones, Ubuntu 13.10 brings new open source graphics stack "MIR" - which was announced earlier this year - to the phone side of the OS, and also as an optional feature for PC users.

MIR supports higher frame-rates in mobile applications and promises performance improvements for games, with better access to underlying graphics capabilities of modern devices and a simplified driver model for widespread hardware support.

"We decided not to move MIR top the desktop just yet, with millions and millions and users, it seemed like too big of a change to introduce there," Shuttleworth said. "But on the phone side, there was no legacy infrastructure so we can be all native MIR from the very beginning.

"MIR is an option on the desktop for those that want it [but] we still have to use the same display system, a very old technology that used across all of the Linux distributions. We are excited to be replacing but we still need it for now for compatibility with older applications."

The release also introduces the full SDK with a set of tools for Ubuntu device app developers. It includes templates and extensions, theming, automatic orientation and UI tools for rapid application development, which Canonical claims are easier to use.

The SDK supports both native and HTML5 development, and app design that is supposed to make it easier for developers to target phones, tablets and PCs with a single codebase.

Discussing Ubuntu's "orchestration management" tool Juju, Shuttleworth said that in version 13.10, it is easier to design, deploy, manage and scale workloads securely from a browser or the command line.

"With [Ubuntu] 13.10, [developers] now have more control in the way that different workloads interact with each other - we are almost approaching the point where you can completely visually deploy very sophisticated applications," Shuttleworth explained. "We also added the ability to deploy multiple things together at the same time so for example previously you would deploy each component individually, such as data base, backup server, and connect then them together.

This reduces complexity and enables administrators to share entire complex workloads of many related parts.

"Now you have the ability to choose a pre-configured bundle of all those things, deploying the whole thing in one go across different clouds, allowing you to do things faster with a bit more control."

Canonical is working with partners to bring Ubuntu smartphone devices to market in 2014. The firm claims that the PC version of Ubuntu 13.10 signals that progress, with lower device memory and graphics requirements with improvements in battery and memory efficiency. Basically, Ubuntu 13.10 is faster and easier to use. It is available for download from today at ubuntu.com/download. µ

 

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