Canonical may not have published an official alpha release for its core Ubuntu Linux 13.04 OS last week—or a corresponding list of new features—but on Friday the company did reveal some specifics about what's coming in this next version of its popular Linux distribution.
In fact, Cristian Parrino, Canonical's vice president of online services, outlined three key new features in a post on the Canonical blog.
Ubuntu 12.10 "Quantal Quetzal" saw the software's desktop Dash "take another important step towards fulfilling its intended purpose of being an online, global search tool that helps users find anything, instantly, right from their home environment," he wrote. “There are a number of exciting improvements planned for 13.04 that will make the Dash more comprehensive, more online, and as a result—slicker and even more useful.”
At least one of the new features promises to generate some controversy, if history is any guide. Here's a rundown of what we can expect.
1. Instant purchasing
Perhaps most likely to raise some eyebrows is that Ubuntu 13.04 will let users purchase music or apps directly from the desktop Dash, without having to open a browser or a separate client.
"In 13.04, we expect to enable instant payments, powered by Ubuntu One, for both applications from the Software Center and music from the Music Store—to deliver the fastest possible purchasing experience directly from the Dash," Parrino explained.
Judging from the strong reaction some users had to Ubuntu's recent integration of Amazon search results, I'm guessing there may be more than a few opponents out there to this commercially focused addition.
2. 'Smart scopes'
Scopes are the daemons capable of presenting local or remote information within the Unity Dash, and version 13.04 will see an increase in the number of them installed by default. Also new will be the ability to automatically highlight the best ones based on their relevance to the user’s search query.
A search for “the Beatles,” for example, would probably trigger the Music and Video scopes and display results including a mix of local and online sources, tapping the user's personal cloud as well as sites such as YouTube, Last.fm, and Amazon, Parrino explained.
“To achieve this, the Dash will call a new smart scope service which will return ranked online search results, which the Dash will then balance against local results to return the most relevant information to the user,” he wrote.
3. Results from more retailers
Last but not least, in Ubuntu 13.04 the software's “More Suggestions” scope, which in version 12.10 returns commercial results just from Amazon and the Ubuntu One Music Store, will be expanded to include more retailers. Parrino did not reveal any specific retailer names, however.
Meanwhile, Canonical is also testing some new user controls, added Parrino, who went on to stress both that Canonical collects no user-identifiable data and that “we have made it dead easy to switch the online search tools off with a simple toggle in settings.”
Want to check out the new changes for yourself? The best place to start is in Ubuntu's latest daily builds.