More than 150 developers of the recently released Linux distribution Ubuntu are in Sydney working on storming the desktop market.

Developers at the Ubuntu Down Under conference are laying down the next stage of the distribution’s evolution. The talkfest — organised by Canonical, a company that sponsors the development of the distribution and funds a number of other open source initiatives — kicked off yesterday.

The event comes after the April release of version 5.04 of Ubuntu. Ubuntu essentially takes a snapshot of a subset of Debian’s ‘Unstable’ Linux distribution every six months and improves upon it for commercial use.

Debian does not formally support Unstable and advises against using it on commercial systems as it receives daily updates which can cause instability. However, Unstable is used widely within the open source community as a Linux desktop because it contains more recent versions of software than Debian’s Stable distribution. In addition, Debian’s Apt tool allows for easy software upgrades.

Laptop computers, multimedia, educators and original equipment manufacturers are the areas which Ubuntu will target with its current and upcoming releases. Ubuntu chief technology officer Matt Zimmerman said “there will be a very big focus on laptop support [and] better support for wireless networks including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth”.

Canonical founder and ex-astronaut Mark Shuttleworth launched the six-day conference with an informal keynote that emphasised the importance of targeting multimedia users as a way to gather new end-users for the distribution and crack the education market.

The conference features many sessions dedicated to the evolution of ‘Edubuntu’, a new strand of Ubuntu designed to ease deployment of the operating system in thin client configurations suited to the cash-strapped environments prevalent in schools and developing nations.

Ubuntu developers are being joined in their efforts by members of the Linux Terminal Server Project, a prominent open-source thin client environment.

Another important strand of the conference aims to develop a 1.0 specification for Ubuntu’s Launchpad project, that Zimmerman said aims to “bring together all the elements that apply to open source development. We want a single tool for package management, translation, bug tracking and code management that allows people to collaborate more efficiently than ever before,” he said. “Launchpad is going to change the way the open source world works”.