Canonical has marshaled the best of what the open-source world has to offer in Ubuntu 8.04, a Linux-based operating system that's capable of mounting a serious challenge to Microsoft Windows on mainstream desktops and notebooks.
During my tests of Ubuntu 8.04, both in its final form and in a series of test releases that led up to the official launch April 24, I've been impressed enough with the distribution to award it the eWEEK Labs Analyst's Choice designation.
As with any would-be Windows rival, Ubuntu 8.04 faces an uphill battle for hardware and software certifications, although the move by Dell in 2007 to begin preloading Ubuntu on some of its notebook and desktop PCs points to progress on the hardware front.
As for software, the continued improvement of open-source alternative applications such as the OpenOffice.org productivity suite, Firefox Web browser and Evolution groupware client go a long way toward providing users with the tools they require to get their work done from a Linux-based desktop.
For Windows applications for which there is no suitable Linux-friendly version or alternative, Ubuntu 8.04's KVM and Xen-based virtualization tools offer a free, built-in means of running Windows software from within an Ubuntu system.
What's more, the debut of Likewise Software's open-source Likewise Open utility makes it rather easy to integrate Ubuntu Linux clients into an Active Directory authentication scheme, and the addition of new installation options for Ubuntu has lowered the bar for trying out the system on machines running Windows.