In April the Ubuntu development team will release the latest version of its operating system, codenamed Jaunty Jackalope.
This release, officially known as Ubuntu 9.04, is expected to consolidate many of the changes begun in the last release in October, called Intrepid.
For many users Intrepid was a disappointment with many of the features expected either not emerging or being included in only partial form.
The one thing that users can look forward to in Jaunty, however, is significantly improved boot times. This has long been promised and while Intrepid made some progress in this area it wasn’t significant enough to be a major feature. Initial trials of Jaunty suggest that the new release will boot a lot faster than previous releases but how fast is still unclear.
The pressure on boot times is not insubstantial. With Windows 7 now nearing its release date the competition for ultra-portable, fast-booting machines is heating up. Microsoft missed the initial netbook surge but we can be sure that with Windows 7 the company will do all it can to regain that ground. And one of the areas critical to netbooks is how fast they start up.
Another of the features that uses can expect from Jaunty is what Ubuntu founder, Mark Shuttleworth, calls "weblications". Which is a horrid way of saying that the Ubuntu developers are working on integrating desktop applications with the Web. At this point it is not entirely clear how this will be done but likely scenarios are integrating desktop applications with web-based storage or resources.
Working "in the cloud" is fast becoming a critical part of all software as users increasingly use online resources for day-to-day work. The one approach is to build applications on the web – as Google has done with GMail and other applications. The other is to develop applications that can use online resources seamlessly when using a broadband connection. Ubuntu, it seems will be following the latter road.
Along with these will be some interface changes, now long overdue, and Ubuntu Jaunty will be hoping to steal some of the thunder from Windows 7 which is due out either later this year or early next.