In February, Ubuntu Linux founder Mark Shuttleworth announced that Ubuntu 9.10 would be codenamed the “Karmic Koala”. Today, after months of development and buzz, the Karmic Koala is being officially released into the wild.
The open source OS’s developers are simultaneously releasing the server, desktop and netbook editions of Ubuntu 9.10 today, offering what Shuttleworth earlier this week referred to as a complete platform that he hopes will become the default alternative to Microsoft’s Windows operating systems.
The first thing that new users are likely to notice about the Karmic release is the speedier boot process.
“The boot process is now substantially faster in Karmic than it has been in any previous Ubuntu release,” Shuttleworth said in a conference call with the media earlier this week. “We have a goal to get to a 10-second boot, and Karmic is a nice step in that direction.”
The previous Jaunty Jackalope Ubuntu Linux release had made similar boot speed gains when it debuted in April.
Among the new features of the Karmic releases is the Ubuntu Software Center, which is an attempt to revamp the add/remove software function in Ubuntu. Shuttleworth explained that Ubuntu is headed in the direction of opening up the software delivery mechanism both to empower third-party ISVs and to make it a smoother experience for users.
Shuttleworth is also hoping that the new Ubuntu release won’t give users “paper cuts,” either. As part of the release cycle for Karmic, Ubuntu started a project called 100 Paper Cuts, which aimed to eliminate bugs and trivial annoyances that users had identified. Shuttleworth reported that for the final release, there had been some 80 “paper cut” fixes.
With Karmic, Ubuntu is also opening up a new effort to deliver network services to the user’s desktop with the Ubuntu One service. Ubuntu One provides users with 2 GB of free backup storage and cloud synchronization, housed on Amazon’s S3 cloud storage service and paid for by Shuttleworth’s company Canonical, which is Ubuntu’s lead commercial sponsor.
Ubuntu One also offers an option to purchase 50 GB of cloud-based storage.
In Karmic, Ubuntu One is focused on file management as well as some contact and address book management. But in the future, Shuttleworth said that Ubuntu One will move into other areas, such identity management.
“We really are starting to combine the idea of free software with services direct to the desktop and shifting the emphasis from the personal computer to personal computing,” Shuttleworth said. “This is blurring the lines between traditional desktop software and what people are referring to as computing in the cloud.”
On the server side of Ubuntu, enabling the cloud is also a key goal, courtesy of the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud (UEC), another enhanced feature of the Karmic release. UEC made its initial Ubuntu debut in the Jaunty Jackalope release in April with full enterprise support services following several months later. In the Karmic release, UEC is being more tightly integrated into the server as well as being enabled with a UEC store for applications. The application store packages cloud-ready application for easy consumption and deployment by enterprise users — similarly to models like Apple’s App Store for the iPhone.
While Ubuntu has added features and performance improvement on its server OS, it still faces a strong competitive battle against Linux rivals Red Hat and Novell in the enterprise space. One area that Ubuntu has focused on with past releases is server certification for enterprise hardware, though that wasn’t a key focus in the Karmic release.
“The general server story continues to improve, it is wonderful to see the rate of adoption of adoption of Ubuntu on the server generally,” Shuttleworth said. “Our relationships on the hardware front are improving, but we have no new server certification announcements to make with this release.”