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Fast boot and overall performance is vital for where Ubuntu is going in that second-machine market: netbooks. Ubuntu will be pre-installed on wave of machines from more OEMs outside the gene pool of Dell and MSI in the third quarter of 2010, Kenyon said.

Canonical will work with PC markers between then and now on implementing the frozen ISO build - the build that was released to manufacturing this month and that Canonical is officially due to post as finished code online for download on Thursday. A big target market for these machines are emerging markets in India and China - places outside the US and Europe saturated by PCs and the culture of expecting Windows on your machine.

"You will see more OEMs this year - major announcements will follow 10.04," Kenyon promised. "Netbooks continue to be very strong."

Asay - who came to the Ubuntu 10.04 cycle late, two months shy of the launch in February - said the new release takes the edges off Linux for OEMs who'd hesitated to commit to open source in the past. That's important, as PC makers are desperate for increasing returns on their boxes and won't have to pay a license to Canonical on every single machine they ship that runs Ubuntu 10.04 - thereby helping their margins.

Brown out

"The Dells etc. can't get that same profit margin [on Windows] because they have to shift so much of their money to Microsoft. For me, I look at that and I say we are hearing from the Dells, Lenovos, and HPs if there were credible alternatives we could make higher margin by shipping Linux. Historically, Linux wasn't a good option for those guys to ship. It was a little to hard to use, to geeky and rough around the edges."

The polish will continue after Thursday's release.

Already, the hallmark brown look that caused newbie consumer users to recoil much is being ushered out for something more agreeably blue and Windows and Mac like. It actually features muted purples and soothing oranges. And tuning will continue, as Ubuntu targets devices "between phones and a standard laptop," according to Kenyon.

For Asay, though, Ubuntu 10.04 finally gives contented Windows and Mac users a reason to switch, because it does more than just offer the long-needed parity - it goes further.

"There's been no innovation on the desktop from anyone and one of the things we've had to do is get the Linux desktop to parity. Lucid 10.04 is the first time where I feel we are beyond parity compared to Windows - anyone using Windows compared to this will say it's a big upgrade. Anyone using Mac will say this is very similar and say I can switch to this." ®

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