New editions of Ubuntu's long-term support (LTS) Linux, code named 'Hardy Heron' (officially called Ubuntu 8.04), for both desktop and server editions were released late last week containing many new features.
Among them is an innovative new way to install and uninstall Linux with a Microsoft Windows desktop.
With the release, Ubuntu and its commercial sponsor Canonical aim to dispel the myth that there isn't a market for the Linux desktop and that it can compete against Microsoft. The Ubuntu 8.04 release also aims to make it easier for users to try out Linux.
"The key areas of focus for 8.04 are stability and also ease of installation and a focus on removing barriers to testing the platform," Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth said on a conference call with reporters and analysts.
One such barrier will be removed with a new technology called "Wubi," which is a Windows based installer for Ubuntu. Shuttleworth explained that Wubi installs Ubuntu as a large file on a Windows partition, rather than the usual procedure of needing to create and resize partitions.
"This greatly reduces the perceived risks of adding Ubuntu to an existing Windows computer," Shuttleworth said. "It allows you to remove Ubuntu using Windows add/remove feature."
Ubuntu LTS releases come out every two years and offer three years of support on the desktop and five years on the server. The last LTS release was the Dapper Drake release, which came out in May 2006.
Ubuntu also puts out regular releases with shorter support periods of 18 months; the last such release was the Gutsy Gibbon release, which debuted in October 2007. While an LTS release has a longer support term than a regular release, it doesn't necessarily imply that one release is better than the other.
"We consider every release that we make to be an enterprise class release and we make security updates for every supported release," Shuttleworth noted.
If fact there are enterprises that use non-LTS releases as well.
"We have noticed a surprising amount of Ubuntu non-LTS releases being used by enterprises where they are taking a short term view of the server infrastructure they happen to be deploying," Shuttleworth said. "LTS releases are focused on meeting the needs of people who are doing larger deployments over a period of time."
A key driver for enterprise adoption for any operating system traditionally has been certification by major hardware vendors. Canonical has been certified on Sun equipment since November 2006. Shuttleworth noted that Canonical is working on an 'enablement' program with HP and Dell for Ubuntu server.
The enablement program is not the same thing as a full certification, though Shuttleworth argued that the general idea is to make the out of the box experience on hardware to be an exception one.
Canonical marketing manager Gerry Carr noted that it just takes time for certifications and that there is no holdup.
"To get Sun, HP ProLiant and Dell to commit to the Server Compatibility Program is significant reassurance to the many companies out there deploying on Ubuntu 8.04 that the OS will be correctly supported," Carr told InternetNews.com. "Pre-loading the OS is less important in the server space but joint market commitment is important. We have only been in the market two years [server side] and so to have this level of support already is some achievement and we will see the relationships grow at the user base, demand and ecosystems grow."
On the desktop side, Red Hat recently announced that it would not be pursuing a consumer desktop for Linux and would instead continue to focus on the enterprise. Red Hat argued that it's difficult to justify a profitable business case for the consumer desktop in light of Microsoft's dominance. Ubuntu and Canonical don't share that view.
"They're right in that no one has proven it yet but then we believe that no one has developed the momentum of Ubuntu or maintained the focus of Ubuntu," Carr said. "And we have always maintained that the consumer desktop is important for all sorts of reasons like hardware compatibility, ecosystem development, and user adoption and that being good there has spill-over effects on the success of the Linux desktop in other spaces."
This article was originally published on InternetNews.com.