Canonical unveils Ubuntu Light, Unity for fast web access


Canonical has unveiled two new systems for the dual boot, instant-on market, trimming down open source operating system Ubuntu to a light version and offering a new netbook-friendly shell called Unity.

The two new products were announced at the Ubuntu Development Summit and targeted at those looking to get to the web in 10 seconds from a cold start up using solid state devices.

"Instant-on products are generally used in a stateless fashion. These are 'get me to the web asap' environments, with no need of heavy local file management," noted founder Mark Shuttleworth in a blog post. "If there is content there, it would be best to think of it as 'cloud like' and synchronise it with the local Windows environment, with cloud services and other devices."

"They are also not environments where people would naturally expect to use a wide range of applications: the web is the key, and there may be a few complementary capabilities like media playback, messaging, games, and the ability to connect to local devices like printers and cameras and pluggable media," he added.


The first release is a new "desktop experience codebase" called Unity, which lets users jump right to using the web, but doesn't support standard file management, Shuttleworth explained.

Unity is designed to make the best use of wide but short screens, said Shuttleworth. "Netbooks have screens which are wide, but shallow. Notebooks in general are moving to wide screen formats," he wrote. "So vertical space is more precious than horizontal space."

Because of this, the application panel is moved from the bottom of the screen to the left hand side. It's also been widened, making the icons touchscreen friendly.

Ubuntu Unity

While Unity is available now, the next move is to make it the basis for Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Edition, ahead of its update in October 2010. Shuttleworth called for help developing the system to work with more applications and standard file management.

Ubuntu Light

The Light version of Ubuntu will come in two versions, for netbooks and desktops.

Ubuntu Light

"The dual-boot opportunity gives us the chance to put a free software foot forward even in markets where people use Windows as a matter of course," he said.

The two versions are available today to OEMs, alongside a tool for Windows to help manage the dual booting. Shuttleworth said offering Ubuntu Light alongside Windows will help manufacturers "differentiate" their products.

Light won't be made generally available via the Ubuntu website, however, "given the requirement to customise the Light versions for specific hardware," Shuttleworth noted.