Canonical has announced the availability of the Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix, a new variant of the popular Linux distribution that has been customized for use in enterprise environments. It is based on Ubuntu 11.10, the current stable version of the distro, but it offers a slightly different set of packages in the default installation.
The business remix omits Ubuntu's standard games, multimedia applications, and social networking tools. Instead, it adds a handful of enterprise-relevant packages, such as VMware View. The remix is free (as in beer) to download, but users are required to fill out a registration form on the Web before they will get access to the ISO.
Because the business remix includes licensed proprietary software from the partner repository in the default installation, it can't be mirrored or freely redistributed like the conventional build. As Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth explained in a blog post, however, the business remix contains no secret sauce. All of the software that it includes can be installed from the Ubuntu Software Center by regular users in a standard build of the operating system.
Canonical says that the contents of the business remix are based on changes to the default package selection that are commonly made by businesses that deploy Ubuntu on the desktop. The business remix offers a convenient way for companies to get a business-friendly Ubuntu build to deploy out of the box or use as a starting point for further customization.
Unlike competing Linux vendors, Canonical has always avoided offering a premium or enterprise tier of its Linux distribution. Enthusiasts and corporate adopters use the same Ubuntu environment, which has always been available at no cost. Canonical makes money on corporate Ubuntu deployments by selling commercial support and system management tools, such as Landscape.
Shuttleworth emphasizes that this longstanding philosophy hasn't changed with the introduction of the new business remix. The remix is still the same standard version of Ubuntu that home users download and run--it just has a different default set of packages. It is still compatible with hardware and software that has been certified to work with Ubuntu.
Ubuntu 12.04, the next major version of the distribution, will be a long-term support (LTS) release, which means that it will receive updates and commercial support for five years. Extended support releases, which are issued every two years, tend to be favored by enterprise users.
The new business remix of 11.10 is unlikely to see any serious adoption in production environments. It's mainly being provided to help companies evaluate the viability of deploying Ubuntu on the desktop ahead of the 12.04 release, which is the one that prospective enterprise Linux desktop adopters would want to seriously consider putting into production use.
Desktop Linux deployments have a mixed track record, but there have been a number of success stories, including businesses, schools, and government agencies. One of the highest profile users of Ubuntu on the desktop is Google, which has its own custom LTS-based variant that is reportedly used by approximately half of the company's employees.
You can find more details about the Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix at Canonical's blog. The remix is available for download from the Ubuntu website.