For the first time in Ubuntu Linux's history, a desktop Long Term Support (LTS) release will be supported for as long as a server release. Ubuntu 12.04 LTS was officially released today, providing five years of support for both desktop and server releases.
Ubuntu 12.04 introduces a new Linux desktop for LTS users, while also providing a new way to more easily access non-Linux applications.
"In Ubuntu 10.04, we only had three years of support on the desktop, but in response to customer requests, for 12.04 we're standardizing for five years on both the desktop and the server," Steve George, VP of Communications and Products at Canonical, explained to InternetNews.com. "The reason for that is corporate customers generally rev their hardware every three years, but it often takes a year for them to get a large deployment upgraded, so they were looking for longer than three years of support from us."
"George stressed that having five years of support on the Linux desktop is a key milestone on the path to being able to deliver to corporate environments, something that is stable and secure.
"With an eye on corporate deployments of Linux desktops, Ubuntu 12.04 is also making it easier for enterprise users to access their non-Linux applications." VMware, Citrix and Microsoft Remote Desktop technologies are now all supported, providing Ubuntu 12.04 users with a way to access enterprise applications. George noted that, for example, if an enterprise migrated to Ubuntu Linux but they still have a single business application that they were not able to migrate, the new remote desktop integration will be a big help.
"Previously you could access, for example, a Citrix server remotely, but you'd have a separate window," George said. "Whereas with 12.04, it will be embedded in the operating system."
"So as far as the end user is concerned they can simply click their application icon in the Ubuntu Linux Unity interface and it will open up the Microsoft application seamlessly. Microsoft RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) support is directly integrated with Ubuntu. Citrix and VMware support is something that end users will have to take an extra step to acquire and download and install clients themselves.
"We've been working closely with the Citrix and VMware guys to make that available," George said. "By delivering this capability, we think it will be a lot easier for people to make the progressive transition across to Ubuntu as their default operating system."
"Licensing of Citrix and VMware clients is still handled on the server side, while the end clients are being made freely available.
"We've had examples of corporate customers that want to move across to a Linux desktop but the problem is they have one or two legacy applications that hold them back," George said. "So making the process of connecting to and using those applications really seamless from a user perspective is an important step."
"Perhaps the biggest user-visible change for corporate users of the Ubuntu 12.04 LTS will be the Unity desktop interface. The Ubuntu 10.04 LTS has the GNOME 2 desktop as the default interface.
"The Ubuntu 11.04 release was the first time that Unity was included in an Ubuntu release, though that was not an LTS. Over the last year, Unity has been improved such that it's now ready for corporate users. The desktop has also now been improved for power users by way of the HUD (Heads Up Display)which provides a new way to control and access application functions.
"As opposed to the initial debut of Unity, which still provided users with a Gnome fallback, in 12.04 Unity is the default desktop.
"The Gnome 2 environment is not maintained anymore," George said. "This LTS release is the jump off point for our customers to get on board with Unity."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.