The next version of Ubuntu Linux will include a new feature that can incorporate commonly used Web apps directly into the user’s desktop, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth announced at OSCON on Thursday.
The new feature, called Ubuntu Web Apps, will give users of the popular Linux distribution a way to run online applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Last.fm, Ebay, and Gmail directly from the desktop rather than always having them confined to the browser.
“Making Web applications behave like their desktop counterparts improves the user experience dramatically; it’s faster and it reduces the proliferation of browser tabs and windows that can quickly make a desktop unmanageable,” the company explained.
A Preview Version
Canonical has already turned 40 popular websites into Ubuntu Web Apps, and more are reportedly on the way.
The new feature will be available as a preview for Ubuntu 12.04 LTS “soon,” Canonical said, and will be available by default in Ubuntu 12.10 “Quantal Quetzal,” which is due for release in October.
The video below demonstrates Ubuntu Web Apps in action.
‘A Nice Productivity Application’
I had a chance to speak with Canonical product manager Pete Goodall about the new feature on Wednesday.
“This is effectively a set of technologies integrated into Ubuntu to allow apps running in the browser to interact through Ubuntu,” Goodall told me.
With an Ubuntu Web App for Gmail, for instance, the user would have a Gmail icon right in the operating system’s Launcher and could see how many unread messages there are via Ubuntu’s messaging indicator.
Users can also access and launch social media accounts such as Google+ or Twitter from the Launcher and get native desktop notifications. Apps can take advantage of Ubuntu’s new Head-Up Display interface as well, Canonical pointed out.
“Many of us work in the browser much of the day, but we also have offline apps,” Goodall concluded. “This blurs the line between the two and makes it a lot easier to work between the two. It’s a really nice productivity application.”