Canonical has announced that Ubuntu 11.04 will be available on 28 April.
Canonical had always planned to ship Ubuntu 11.04 on 28 April, however with a week to go it has confirmed that everything is on track for a timely release. Gerry Carr, marketing manager at Canonical told The INQUIRER that last week's second beta was the final pre-production release of Ubuntu 11.04, adding that it is "good enough" not to require a release candidate.
For Canonical, Ubuntu 11.04 is a major release, in that it will be the first where the default desktop will be Unity, instead of Gnome. Carr said that Canonical spent the past two years designing and engineering the multi-touch capable desktop system but added that Gnome will be available to users for years to come. Carr also pointed out that Canonical, through Ubuntu, is still the biggest shipper of Gnome desktops.
When asked why Canonical took the major task of developing Unity when other distributions shipped with Gnome, KDE and Xfce, Carr told The INQUIRER that "other distributions are not as focused on bringing a free desktop to the market". As for whether other distributions might offer the open source Unity desktop in the future, Carr said that he didn't know of any other distribution and held no expectations.
Aside from Unity, Canonical is working to increase that awareness of Linux and Carr said that Microsoft, not other Linux distributions, is the outfit's main rival. Carr said that he "does not mind if people choose other [Linux] distributions". To that end, Canonical will introduce a cloud based trial of Ubuntu 11.04.
Ubuntu had pre-announced that it will be offering a cloud based trial service of Ubuntu 11.04, though Carr said that will come a little after the launch. A live trial version is vital to grow the popularity of Ubuntu, according to Carr, who said that even downloading LiveCDs is a barrier for some.
Carr said that in order to try out Ubuntu 11.04 all users will need is a web browser, but he confirmed that due to rendering limitations, users will only have access to a 2D version of Unity. Nevertheless, being able to try a fully featured Linux distribution should dispel any myths about its supposedly steep learning curve.
Canonical has enjoyed considerable success with its Ubuntu Linux distribution. It has made a brave move to rejig the user interface in order to attract more Windows users to Linux. Whether it will succeed remains to be seen, but Canonical certainly can't be faulted for a lack of effort.