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Linux Mint Overtakes Ubuntu In The Popularity Stakes

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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Open source enthusiasts are falling out of love with Ubuntu if the latest figures are to be believed

Canonical’s new interface for the Ubuntu Linux operating system seems to be backfiring, at least according to the latest annual web ranking figures from Distrowatch.

The Distrowatch figures show that in the last 12 months Ubuntu’s top spot has been snatched by Mint, which seems to be growing at a rapid rate (especially in the last month).

Distrowatch reveals that for the past year Ubuntu has been firmly rooted in second place behind Mint, until the last month that is, when Ubuntu’s web ranking fell to forth place, behind that of other Linux distributions Fedora (second) and openSUSE (third).

Web Impressions

Mint (like Ubuntu) is based on Debian, and the distro is positioning itself as an easy to use operating system, suitable for those new to Linux.

Distrowatch did not reveal the reason for the sudden drop in Ubuntu’s popularity, but it should be remembered that Distrowatch figures are based on web page impressions. Therefore many will argue it does not reflect the real state of play when more conventional market share measurement methods are applied, such as actual installations or downloads.

In October Canonical revealed it was to expand its Ubuntu Linux operating system beyond the world of the PC into mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Once the company finalises its upcoming 12.04 release (Precise Pangolin), developers will reportedly turn their attention to smartphones, tablets and televisions, said Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth.

Unity Interface

But Canonical is known to be battling against the opinion of some within the open source community, who are less than impressed with Ubuntu’s controversial new interface, Unity, which is at the heart of Canonical’s multi-platform strategy.

The interface has introduced fixed elements such as a left-hand toolbar, which according to Mark Shuttleworth has been under development for the past two years. Unity is reportedly intended to give the interface consistency across different platforms

Shuttleworth said Ubuntu would introduce distinct “personalities” for different types of devices and that the software would be able to switch between personalities depending on the context. For instance, a mobile device could switch into television mode when connected to a television, he said.

Precise Pangolin (Ubuntu 12.04) is due in April 2012, and will include support for ARM processors and consolidate recent changes such as the user interface change.

As the next Long Term Support (LTS) version of the OS, it comes two years after the last LTS version, Lucid Lynx, and will have long-term support. Precise Pangolin will replace the Oneiric Ocelot (11.04) interim release, which emerged on 13 October 2011.