Ulteo – Will it ‘change the way we all use computers’?

Ulteo, a relative newcomer to the ever evolving Linux world, is currently sitting at a not too impressive 95 on Distrowatch. After recent announcements by Gaël Duval on the Ulteo blog, I suspect that position is about to change dramatically. Whether Ulteo will climb to the dizzy heights of distributions like PCLinuxOS or Ubuntu, or even surpass Gaël’s previous project, Mandriva, remains to be seen.

Over the past couple of years I’ve been dabbling with various Linux distributions. Although I’m certainly no expert when it comes to Linux, I found many of them surprisingly easy to install and use and came across an extremely impressive array of free software. However, I always felt like there was something missing from each distro, or maybe it was just my limited knowledge of Linux, either way I gave up and returned back to the Mac.

I returned to find out things had changed a bit since my previous Mac OS 10.2 experience. What was then an endearing OS still finding it’s feet has now become the black turtle-necked monster it is today, OS 10.4. It drags you into its iCave full of slick looking hardware, constantly teases you with slicker looking hardware and refuses to let you back out. I’m starting to miss the freedom of Linux already! And if there’s one distro that might just save me from the iCave, it’s Ulteo.

Ulteo“my digital life made simple”

Ulteo started life as a side-project of Gaël Duval, creator of Mandrake (now Mandriva) Linux, and a respected member of the Linux community. After being controversially sacked from Mandriva in March 2006, Gaël is now concentrating his efforts on the OS that is set to “change the way we all use computers”. An ambitious statement, especially for a project that’s only in the alpha stages of development.

The Ulteo OS or ‘Application System’ is currently available for download on the Ulteo download page. On the web-side of things, Beta testing of the Ulteo Online Desktop has also been announced recently, details of which I cannot disclose, mainly due to the fact I haven’t been lucky enough to receive an invite 😦 . However, I have downloaded and tested the Ulteo Application System, and being Ubuntu/Debian based they are certainly starting with a solid core. Running as a Live CD with the option to install on your hard drive, it uses the KDE desktop environment (there’s speculation of a Gnome version becoming available), and is pretty much identical to Kubuntu. The desktop layout has been inspired by the standard Windows layout, even the inclusion of a ‘Start’ menu, making it obvious who their target audience is. With a number of people possibly looking at how to reutilise their current hardware rather than splash out on ‘Vista-ready’ hardware it could be the perfect time for Ulteo and even Linux to enter the mainstream.

There are already plenty of ‘Webtop’ OS’s out there such as DesktopTwo or eyeOS, but these are certainly not solid enough for mainstream use. On a Webtop OS all your files and applications are stored remotely and accessed via a web browser. However, Ulteo aims to go a few steps further by tightly integrating your online desktop with your local desktop. How they will do this is still a mystery to me.

With my limited knowledge, it’s difficult to speculate what exactly Ulteo is going to be but my suggestions are:
1. Identical local and remote systems that are updated continuously and kept in sync. Accessed as a whole from either the Ulteo Application System on your local PC or via the Ulteo Online Desktop…
or 2. All your files and applications stored on the local ‘application system’ with remote access to this through the Ulteo Online Desktop…
or 3. All files and applications stored remotely with access from both the local PC and via the Ulteo Online Desktop.

However, none of these are particularly groundbreaking ideas, so if Ulteo is to pull it off they really need to throw something fresh into the mix, while keeping it a simple and seamless experience for all the average PC users like myself. All signs are pointing in that direction, so I’ll be keeping a close eye on Ulteo’s progress for now and waiting for that golden ticket to drop in my inbox.

The Ulteo website >>>
Gaël Duval’s blog >>>


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