Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth unveiled the Unity project a year ago during an Ubuntu Developer Summit keynote in Brussels. The new shell was originally created for the Ubuntu Netbook Edition and first shipped as the default netbook environment in Ubuntu 10.10. The Ubuntu developers have worked intensively over the last six months to adapt Unity for the desktop. The effort entailed a significant overhaul of the Unity frontend that boosts its performance, reliability, and suitability for use on larger screens.
In addition to delivering the new Unity shell, the new version of Ubuntu also brings some improvements to desktop theming and bundled software. The Gtk+ theme has a new slim scrollbar style and a number of other enhancements.
Ubuntu’s Software Center, which allows users to install and manage applications, got several noteworthy new features, including support for posting ratings and reviews. Canonical’s Ubuntu One synchronization service got some nice user interface improvements and performance optimizations. The default music player in Ubuntu changed from Rhythmbox to Banshee in this new release, improving the out-of-the-box music experience for end users.
Users of Ubuntu 10.10 will be offered an automatic upgrade to 11.04 via the Update Manager. Further information about upgrading can be found on the Ubuntu site.
Standard maintenance updates will be provided for Ubuntu 11.04 for 18 months, through October 2012. The current Long Term Support (LTS) version is Ubuntu 10.04, with another one expected in April 2012. The next major release following Ubuntu 11.04 will be 11.10 “Oneiric Ocelot,” which is slated to arrive in October.