History is a grand teacher. And in recent years, Ubuntu Linux has had to deal with a few hiccups in its history. To be specific, when Ubuntu Unity arrived, Ubuntu Linux usage dropped dramatically. When Windows 8 arrives, people are going to have similar issues with the drastic (and not terribly intelligent) changes made to the user interface.
But it's not just Windows 8's shortcomings that make Ubuntu 12.10 the better option. Ubuntu has made some serious progress in the realm of efficiency and user friendliness. With yesterday's release of 12.10, the improvements continue. Let's examine some of the reasons why Ubuntu 12.10 will blow away Windows 8.
1: Amazon search
This is something new to every desktop platform. With Ubuntu Unity's Dash, when you run a search, the search results will include items that can be purchased from Amazon.com. This feature takes online shopping (be it personal or for business) to a new level. Hopefully, at some point, the API for this feature will spread out and users and businesses will be able to include their favorite shopping sites. With all other platforms, you have to go through the steps of opening up your browser, launching the site, searching for the product, and clicking the desired product.
2: Dash previews
When you do search in the Dash, Unity will give you an interactive preview of the results. If the results are audio files, you can right-click the file to get a preview window. You can either show that file in its folder or play the file. If the file is a document, the preview will allow you to open the containing folder, open the file, or email the file.
3: Interface based on efficiency
From the ground up, Canonical and the Ubuntu Unity developers focused on creating an interface that would make day-to-day work as efficient as possible. I can attest, after using Unity since it first launched, that 12.10 is the most efficient desktop interface I have ever used. Those accustomed to switching back and forth between the mouse and the keyboard will happily make user of the Launcher. Users who want a more efficient means of interfacing with their machine will zoom along with the Dash -- fingers rarely leaving the keyboard for the mouse.
4: Remote login
This feature is simply amazing. At the Ubuntu login prompt, there are three options: User Login, Guest Session, and Remote Login. The Remote Login allows you to set up remote connections (through UbuntuOne), which you can then log onto from the login screen. No more having to log onto a session and then use a VNC or RDP tool to connect. Now you can gain fast access to those remote machines. You will not find such efficient means of gaining a remote desktop in Windows 8.
5: Integrated Web services
Ubuntu 12.10 has Web services directly integrated into both the Launcher and the Dash, making it one of the most well connected interfaces on the planet. The simplest example of this is the ability to have the arrival of Gmail announced in the notification area. But the Google integration doesn't end there. Once you've authenticated that online account with Unity, you can search your Google Apps account from within the Dash and open files with a simple click.
6: Ease of app installation
This ties into the Dash, as do many other features in 12.10. Open the Dash, click on the Application Lens, search for an application, and right-click the listing to immediately install. There's not even a need to open the Ubuntu Software Center to install applications. If you left-click on the search result, the Software Center will open. It's wise to retain this option so that when applications have settings (such as plug-ins that can be installed alongside the application), the user can take advantage of them. Windows 8's app store includes only Windows 8 (Metro) apps, and it's not nearly as efficient as the Unity take on installation.
7: Gradual change in UI
Ubuntu 12.10 benefits from a user interface that has been in the wild for more than a year. During that year, Unity has been prodded and polished by users and developers alike. Unity has matured faster than any desktop I can remember. Unlike Unity users, Windows users are going to be tossed into the arena with little-to-no-introduction. Yes, the same thing happened with Unity. But in the case of Ubuntu, users were able to continue using either Classic GNOME or GNOME Shell while they learned Unity.
8: Same interface from server to tablet
One of Mark Shuttleworth's goals has been to have an identical interface on all Ubuntu-powered devices. Now that the Linux kernel has tackled the ARM issue, Ubuntu will be able to find its way onto tablet devices. With users (and support) being able to enjoy the same interface on tablets, desktops, and servers, life will become much easier across the board.
9: Performance boost
A number of improvements combine to give Ubuntu 12.10 a significant performance increase. The merging of the Unity 2D and 3D, kernel improvements, OpenGL performance boosts, and the inclusion of the new X.org X Windows stack all make for a lightning fast Unity desktop. From Ubuntu 12.04 to 12.10, I have noticed a significant increase in both performance and reliability -- and that was an upgrade install!
10: Share Links file sharing
Ubuntu already had a built-in cloud storage system -- UbuntuOne. I've been using that system for quite some time now and have found it to be much richer than, say, Dropbox. But Canonical wasn't happy with just the inclusion of cloud storage in Ubuntu. To take this to a new level, it decided to allow users to share files with others via Share Links. This feature lets you copy links to files within your UbuntuOne cloud storage and share those files with other users. Yet another tool in Ubuntu arsenal called "efficiency."
The user friendliness keeps piling on with Ubuntu 12.10. I fully believe this will be the release that opens the eyes of the public at large to Ubuntu. Once users see how much more friendly and usable Ubuntu is over Windows 8, they'll be flocking to the open source desktop.
Do you agree that Ubuntu 12.10 has it all over Windows 8? What other factors do you think make one platform better than the other?
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.