Ubuntu (Just a short drive from Redmond WA) - October 18 marks the official release date for the Ubuntu 7.10 release, codenamed Gutsy Gibbon. Gibbon brings to the table a host of new features aimed at making Linux more user friendly and secure.
GNome 2.20 - The latest GNome graphical environment. For Windows users, this would be the equivalent of the graphical desktop.
Compiz Fusion - A new graphical user interface which brings solid 3D effects to the desktop. For Windows users, this would be closer to the Vista experience, however many users report Compiz puts Vista to shame.
Desktop Search - A standard search engine which enables quick identification and location of any music, data files, installed programs, etc.
Faster User Switching - Gibbon brings a new user tab to the start bar. It allows multiple users to share the same machine without having to log off and log back on. Selecting a user from a menu then engages their profile and off they go.
Firefox Plugins - One of the more painful setup features of Firefox (or Opera) has been adding 3rd party plug-ins. While they do work, the required data files had to be manually copied to specific locations. As part of Ubuntu's ongoing development effort to make Linux more point-and-click, standard Firefox plugins are now available via a graphical installation process.
Dynamic Screen Configuration - A significant upgrade from 7.04, Gibbon can now actively detect the installation of new monitors at runtime, whether or not those monitors should have their images rotated, all without having to manually configure anything or reboot. It might seem like a small addition, but as someone who uses my Samsung SyncMaster 244T in 1200 x 1920 mode (vertically), it makes a big difference.
Graphical Configuration Tool for X - X is the baseline graphics engine behind Linux. It would be roughly equivalent to the GDI in Windows. A new graphical tool allows easier selection of video modes, including rotation and desktop extension. This would be similar to the display settings tool in Windows.
Fully Automatic Printer Installation - Gibbon uses an almost identical printer model to that of Mac OS X. Ubunut's founder, Mark Shuttleworth, recently made the comment that Ubuntu is almost to the point where it can be said, "If your printer works with a Mac, it will work with Ubuntu." It's not quite there yet, but very close. Look for the final update in April, 2008, when Hardy Heron 8.04 is released.
NTFS Writing - Ubuntu has always been able to read Windows NTFS hard drives by default, but now it will come with write abilities by default using the NTFS-3g project. As someone who has a large data drive with NTFS file system, this is a must have. Though, even to this day, there are still corruptions between Ubuntu's use and Windows' use through VMware Server.
AppArmor Security Framework & Hard Disk Encryptions - Ubuntu brings more encryption options to the table, it also isolates critical processes against attacks by viruses, for example.
Note: There were also improvements on power consumption and thin client support, as well as new installation profiles enabling more options during the default install.
Ubuntu remains a totally free operating system. It is part of the open-source iniative as a Debian-based Linux distribution. There are more than 20,000 software programs available to Ubuntu, with nearly all of them free. Ubuntu encourages its users to get actively involved in their favorite software programs. These collective efforts by users ultimately result in programs and projects which more aptly meet the user's needs. Ubuntu's corporate partner is called Canonical. They can provide paid support to individuals or corporations.
Ubuntu uses a pricing model which allows every machine in an organization to be deployed with Ubuntu, but only a particular class of machine has to have paid support. This means that if there are data entry, accountant, business and developer users in a particular organization, and each of those classes of users had a different type of software profile on their computers, then that organization would only need to buy support for each class. Even if the organization had 10,000 users, only four support purchases would be required. This is one way Ubuntu differs significantly from RedHat, SuSE, or other Linux or Windows versions.