Updated Ubuntu's mission to become more Mac-like takes a step forward with Maverick Meerkat, as Canonical further fuses machine and web.
Ubuntu 10.10, due Sunday, will for the first time put the Ubuntu One file syncing and sharing service on Apple's iPhone and on Android phones. Further, Ubuntu 10.10 will contain a beta of its hinted-at Ubuntu One syncing and sharing service to Windows machines for the first time.
Ubuntu One lets you store and sync files, contacts, bookmarks, notes and music from the Ubuntu One music service. Using Ubuntu One, you can buy, store, sync and stream tunes from the cloud to your device.
Rolling the file-sharing capabilities of Ubuntu One out to Android, iPhone and Windows PCs means you can now sync and play your tunes on these non-Ubuntu machines for the first time. It follows Apple's iTune that runs on Windows in addition to its native Mac, iPhone and iPad.
There are limits with what Ubuntu's offering. You cannot purchase music from Android, iPhone or Windows PCs. Also, on a PC, you will need to play your music using an MP3 player from Microsoft or somebody else.
Canonical vice president of business development Steve George told The Reg that Ubuntu isn't trying to convert Mac or Windows users to Ubuntu, but that it merely wants to help Ubuntu fit in with users' existing array of devices by being able to share and sync files.
"In music, people want to play their music at work and home. One of the big use-cases was people wanting to listen to music on their way home. So we have done mobile streaming," George said.
Ubuntu One for Android is delivered using Subsonic, and is due for download via the Android Marketplace. The iPhone version is a native app that "will follow shortly," George told us - meaning pending approval by Apple's App Store plods.
He claimed the difference between the Ubuntu One music service and competitors such as iTunes and Rhapsody is the fusion of "social interaction". The previous release of Ubuntu, 10.04, embedded Twitter and Faceboook into the operating system. Ubuntu's Software Center, meanwhile, lets you post your updates to Twitter via Gwibber.
George promised that Canonical would have more things to talk about concerning what he called "bringing the internet into the operating system" during the company's developer summit in Orlando, Florida, later this month.
"I see us bringing a lot of that work in - it's an interesting catch point we should look at," George told The Reg.
He also promised more services on top of Ubuntu One, going beyond music and delivered by more third parties - the Ubuntu One music service, for example, was built by 7Digital.
"We want to extend that out in the future so third parties can build services on top [of Ubuntu One]," George said.
Among other changes in Ubuntu 10.10 are a redesigned Ubuntu Software Center considered more user-friendly with the inclusion of a new History option panel that shows the packages installed, removed, and upgraded. Version 10.10 also debuts the highly anticipated Unity interface for touch and gesture input on devices.
George said the refinements, along with tighter integration between the web and operating system with touch, Unity, Software Center, and the personal cloud with Ubuntu One, pointed to the long-term future of Ubuntu.
"This is the first release in the next cycle towards the LTS in two years time," George said. "All of these [changes] set out what we are starting to do in the long-term future of Ubuntu in terms of making it a great consumer platform."
Fiddling with the interface and integration with online services is one thing - well, two, actually. Having delivered a multi-touch UI, Canonical's challenges will then be to encourage ISVs to build applications that use it, and to start building a viable ecosystem around the framework.
George said the arrival of new hardware from OEMs next year would help the open source and free software community build for touch. The development of necessary toolkits that open sourcers would use to build apps for touch are a work in progress, he said. ®
This story has been updated to clarify that the Ubuntu One service for Android, iPhone and Windows PC lets you sync and share files such as music. Ubuntu is not making a native player. Also, you will not be able to buy or download music from the Ubuntu One music store using your Android or iPhone or Windows PC - it's streaming only.