Open source innovation on the cutting edge

Think open source doesn’t innovate? Here are seven projects exploring exciting new directions in computing -- for free

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Open source innovation: Ubuntu Light/Unity
Netbooks, tablets, and other next-generation mobile computing devices are growing ever more portable, powerful, and affordable. Unfortunately, mobile software isn't improving as fast as the hardware. Most mainstream netbooks struggle to meet the demands of operating systems that were originally designed for desktops, while Apple's iPad is a powerful tablet hamstrung by a smartphone OS.


The Ubuntu community thinks it has the answer. Its new user experience software, dubbed Unity, seeks to combine the ease-of-use and accessibility of a smartphone UI with the power and flexibility of a full-fledged Linux desktop. Gone are the traditional pull-down menus and desktop widgets, replaced by a simple, push-button-style taskbar. But this is no toy OS; it can potentially run any of the thousands of applications available for Linux, GUI or otherwise.

Unity's real power becomes evident when paired with Ubuntu Light, a new, stripped-down formulation of Ubuntu Linux designed specifically for netbooks and other mobile platforms. Ubuntu Light's goal is to take users from power-on to the Web in less than 10 seconds, which makes it ideal for the emerging class of dual-boot devices that let users choose between a basic Web-browsing experience and a full-blown OS.

As competitive pressures drive the retail price of mobile computing ever lower, hardware vendors will increasingly look to Linux as a way to cut R&D manufacturing costs. But the greatest strength of Linux-based solutions such as Ubuntu Light is that because they are open source, vendors are free to tailor them to meet their exact needs, rather than trying to shoehorn old paradigms into a new class of technology.

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