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Late last month, Ubuntu 8.04 arrived on the scene, right on time, right on its six-month refresh cycle and readily available via a simple ISO image file download. While that may have been big news for the Linux community, the question remains, what if any impact will this latest release have on mainstream computer users?
For the majority of PC users, the impact will probably be nil. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity here for solution providers and system builders. But first they have to contemplate Ubuntu being a viable alternative to Microsoft’s family of Windows products. And that may be a big leap for many to make.

While hundreds of case studies, articles and training sessions have all shown that Linux can be a viable alternative, the simple fact remains, users are not flocking to it! Can this latest Ubuntu distribution change that? Probably not! But, the ranks of Windows users are becoming more and more disenchanted every day! There are those that shun Windows Vista (in any form), there are those still investing in Windows XP, and there are those that are just plain trapped by Windows Operating Systems and associated line of business applications. And that may be where the opportunity is for solution providers looking to think outside the box!

A little more about Ubuntu

One of the biggest misconceptions is that Ubuntu is a desktop Linux operating system, but in reality it is a lot more than just that. The Ubuntu distribution of Linux comes in many flavors, each tailored for specific markets. First off, there are two main categories of Ubuntu, desktop and server. As the names imply, Ubuntu server is for server class solutions, while Ubuntu desktop is aimed at the desktop user. Now, wouldn’t it be great if it was just that simple? But, both desktop and server have many sub-versions, which further complicate issues!

Luckily, the server side of the equation here is aimed at technically savvy network administrators and integrators, meaning that the issues that would confound desktop users (and even some system builders) won’t come into play.

The story is a little different when it comes to the various desktop editions of Ubuntu, desktop users and those supporting them have to deal with a variety of choices when it comes to selecting the right edition. First, there is a question of which of the three flavors of desktop environments to choose, there is GNOME, KDE and XFce. What’s more, there is an educational version (Edubuntu) and a version that only uses free software distributions (Gobuntu). Beyond choosing which distribution and interface, installers will need to decide if they want to use a 64 or 32bit version. Arguably, the most popular choice here is Ubuntu 8.04 32bit with the GNOME desktop, with KUbuntu (KDE) 32bit following closely behind.