I have been following the developments of the latest Ubuntu release, Ubuntu 9.10. The release will include a massive amount of new features, extending from programming to features that benefit the end user. It is within these new features that Ubuntu is moving beyond simply a repackaging of different Linux systems and applications to implementing features specifically created by and for the Ubuntu project.
One such example is the Ubuntu One feature, providing a file backup and sharing service — specifically for Ubuntu. Another feature, a program called “Quickly,” will allow programmers to create applications for Ubuntu and share the resulting .deb files with other users.
The Ubuntu One feature especially catches my attention. Not only is it officially provided by Canonical, but it also has a proprietary backend for the server. I personally do not mind the proprietary nature of the program, but it adds an unusual twist to the distribution. Officially a part of the installation, you have a feature that no other distribution offers or can offer in the same way. Other distributions must provide the feature themselves, something that perhaps only Red Hat and Novell might have the capacity to do. The rest of the community distributions are really out of luck on this feature. Because of the proprietary nature, even the community distributions cannot even begin to implement a similar service using the code for the service as a base.
With the features above, Ubuntu is beginning to look different from some of the other distributions. Typically, distributions have software and features that are either the same or roughly equivalent to one another. Ubuntu’s departure from this model is an interesting development, especially with reference to Ubuntu One. Exactly how will the rest of the Linux community respond to Ubuntu providing features, that due to proprietary nature, cannot be used by the other distributions at all? It will certainly be interesting to watch how these new features affect the Linux market.
Ubuntu 9.10 is due to be released on October 29, 2009.