First there was light beer, and now we've got light Linux, courtesy of the Ubuntu Light effort.
In an effort to produce a fast-loading Linux operating system, Canonical, the lead sponsor of Ubuntu Linux, is now involved in producing a lighter-weight desktop -- codenamed Unity -- that will help to power a new version of Ubuntu, dubbed Ubuntu Light.
The Unity and Ubuntu Light efforts are being targeted for dual-boot, instant-on computing use cases that can leverage both Windows and Linux operating systems. The Ubuntu Light effort comes on the heels of the Lucid Lynx Ubuntu release last month. According to the effort's supporters, Unity and Ubuntu Light will help play a role in the evolution of Ubuntu's next netbook and desktop versions, as Ubuntu now focuses development efforts on its 10.10 release, nicknamed "Maverick Meerkat," later this year.
Ubuntu Light isn't intended to be for everyone, though, since it will take a stripped-down approach to the Linux desktop.
"It's a pared-down subset of applications that will then use the Unity launcher," Gerry Carr, platform marketing manager at Canonical, told InternetNews.com. "So the only default applications will be a media player, browser and chat/IM. There will be other applications that the OEM can specify, such as Skype."
He added that the plan is for far fewer applications to be included with Ubuntu Light than those that come with Ubuntu. It is intended to be upgradeable, however.
As part of the Ubuntu Light effort, Canonical will be developing tools that are intended to help dual-boot management. Currently, Ubuntu has Wubi, which enables Windows users to more easily install Ubuntu in a Windows partition, but Carr said Wubi is unrelated to the new Ubuntu Light efforts.
"The [Ubuntu Light] tools will allow to access files that are on the Windows machine, so the music player can play music files that are actually on the Windows machine," Carr said.
He added that there are some other integrations that are being discussed this week at a Ubuntu developer event focusing on further enabling dual-boot management and usability.
In a blog post detailing the direction that Unity and Ubuntu Light will take, Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth noted some key user interface panels familiar to Linux users will be moved around.
"First, we want to move the bottom panel to the left of the screen, and devote that to launching and switching between applications," Shuttleworth said in his post. "That frees up vertical space for Web content, at the cost of horizontal space, which is cheaper in a widescreen world. In Ubuntu today, the bottom panel also presents the Trash and Show Desktop options, neither of which is relevant in a stateless, instant-on environment."
With Unity still in early development, Shuttlworth noted that development milestones are not available for existing Ubuntu users to test out.