The first beta release of Ubuntu 11.04 'Natty Narwhal' arrived today and with it comes one of the biggest changes since the project began – the default desktop changes from GNOME to Unity.
In November last year Canonical CEO, Mark Shuttleworth, announced Ubuntu will move from the GNOME desktop to Unity and replace the X.org windowing system with Wayland.
For the 11.04 release, X.org has been upgraded to 1.10 and Unity will be the default desktop. GNOME will still be available is via 'Classic' login option.
Canonical has been criticised for choosing its own Unity over the community's GNOME interface and a long-running rift between the two parties continues regarding which Ubuntu software is accepted into mainstream GNOME.
The base Linux kernel has been upgraded to 2.6.38 and LibreOffice 3.3.2 is the default office suite.
Firefox 4.0 is the standard Web browser and Banshee is the default music player.
More content and applications can be added to the default installation through the Ubuntu One personal cloud service and the Ubuntu Software Centre.
Ubuntu Software Center has had improvements made to its usability and the startup time performance is better in 11.04.
KDE fans can try the Kubuntu release which follows the same schedule as the main Ubuntu distribution.
Kubuntu Natty will feature KDE 4.6.1 and other integration updates.
In addition x86 PCs, Ubuntu Natty will run on ARM netbooks and be the first ARM release to also use Unity by default. Previous Ubuntu netbooks shipped with the precursor to Unity – Ubuntu Netbook Edition.
Natty server will be very cloud-oriented with tools like Eucalyptus for managing virtual machines and a technology preview of OpenStack, a collection of open source components designed for Cloud computing.
The Cloud image for running on Amazon's EC2 infrastructure has also been updated for 11.04.
The final Ubuntu 11.04 'Natty Narwhal' release is scheduled for April 28.
Work has already started on the next release after Natty, Oneiric Ocelot.
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