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Ubuntu 13.10 takes aim at Microsoft, Apple, Google

Canonical is making a serious run at the cloud, client, server and smartphone markets

By Tom Henderson, ExtremeLabs, Inc., Network World
January 06, 2014 06:09 AM ET

Network World - Ubuntu is moving into the rarified class of operating systems that cover x86/x64 clients and servers, ARM-based tablets/smartphones, and commodity cloud instances. Meaning that it's taking on everybody from Microsoft to Red Hat to Apple and Google.

On the cloud front, Canonical’s announced compatibility with OpenStack APIs for both internal, Ubuntu-hosted or external clouds speaks to Canonical's attempts to make Ubuntu instances a default choice. (Watch a slideshow version of this story.)

On the client side, Ubuntu’s Unity GUI starts to go places where Ubuntu-derivative/associated distros like Linux Mint cannot: onto smartphones and tablets. It took pains for us to obtain a smartphone that would run Ubuntu 13.10, but the Nexus 4 we used is essentially identical in functionality to installations we put on notebooks and virtual machines.

The server version is targeting enterprise scale-out as well as scale-up implementations. Ubuntu server editions are still Debian with Canonical clothing, but thanks to attention paid to hypervisor compatibility and leadership in both the OpenStack compatibility and Amazon Web Services EC2 worlds, 13.10 Server wants to rock rapid rollout and play everywhere, with every hypervisor. That includes stacking application instances inside of itself for what Canonical calls “compactness”.

+ ALSO ON NETWORK WORLD Ubuntu 13.10: The good, the bad and the ugly +

It works, and there are aids to rolling out 13.10. But the stability of OpenStack will be a target for criticism as various vendors tilt and mangle OpenStack towards their own pursuits and goals.

Ubuntu 13.10 client

Dubbed Saucy Salamander, the 13.10 client has changed very little from the previous version, although the GUI plumbing underneath is in transition. This may be the last version of Unity that uses X.org underpinnings, as Canonical transitions to the windowing/GUI system Mir and its X.org-Mir translator.

The support life for this OS is only nine months and the next version, 14.04, will be a five-year supported version that might contain the debut of XMir and Mir -- which would be somewhat radical for Canonical in an Long Term Support release.

The Ubuntu Dash dashboard has been upgraded to allow opt-out searches through the Ubuntu One cloud storage service. Queries sent when opted-in are sent to Ubuntu One, and Canonical serves as a proxy information broker among the current 50-plus third-party providers, listed here, sending the results back to the user. Call it: Answers-As-A-Service, or AaaS.

On one hand, this allows searches across numerous providers, and hopefully, the Canonical parsing engines are smart enough to pick suitable answer-providers from among the third-party supporters. This also means that as Canonical ostensibly anonymizes user information and privacy policy prevents Big Data ad engines from coming into play. This will please privacy advocates.

The other hand is that Canonical does store the query and account information associated with the search transactions by Ubuntu One accounts. This information is stored and can be the subject of a subpoena or other order, hence possibly revealing user/query information -- to the chagrin of privacy policies and mandates.

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