Canonical has released Ubuntu 12.10 Quantal Quetzal, the latest version of the Ubuntu Linux operating system for PCs and laptops. 12.10 brings several new features to the OS, the most note-worthy and controversial being a commercial partnership with retail giant Amazon.

Sneaking out ahead of next week's Windows 8 launch, Canonical is today releasing the latest version of its Ubuntu operating system: Ubuntu 12.10 'Quantal Quetzal'. 12.10 is the first Ubuntu release in the current development cycle of the Linux-based OS, being the first six monthly upgrade following on from Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin LTS. There'll be a whole new LTS release in 18 months or so.

A Canonical spokesman told PC Advisor that the latest Ubuntu release reflects increasing 'change in user expectations in regard to search, mobile, web apps and social'. He said 12.10 was intended to 'integrate online and offline apps and content', providing the ideal operating system for users who are looking to 'access everything, everywhere'.

What's new in Ubuntu 12.10?

Significant changes in Ubuntu 12.10 include updates to the Dash, a hub from which Ubuntu allows you to search files, folders and apps. Up to this point Dash was limited to searching your local system. Canonical has now extended this to search on the internet, but not the whole internet. Dash now searches specific apps and plugins to which you are signed in. So if you are looking for a document, it will find it even if it is held in Google Docs, for instance.

Dash now allows users to preview while they search, in real time. So if you are hunting through a pile of photos, you can find the one you want before you open the relevant file or app.

More controversially in the traditionally non-commercial Linux space there is a commercial aspect to Ubuntu's updated Dash feature. Search for a music track you don't have, for instance, and the search results will include listings on the Ubuntu Music Store so you can purchase it. This, said our Canonical spokesman, 'Makes it easier for users to complete their goals, but also makes some money which in the long-term is good for Ubuntu'.

There's also an Amazon extension, via which Dash searches can show Amazon product listings in their results. Canonical was keen to point out that this element can be switched off, and that it considered privacy features to be 'critical'.

Canonical looks for further commercial partners

Canonical told PC Advisor that it was on the look out for further commercial partners: 'any partners that are valuable for users... things like Amazon that are almost intrinsic to the idea of online shopping'.

The spokesman told us that Canonical was 'Looking for ways to extend the metaphor across online services to make Dash powerful and easy to use for general users.'

Also new in Ubuntu 12.10 is the development of web apps as what Canonical calls 'first-class citizens'. Users can pin web-based applications to their Launch menu, and open them in discrete windows separate from their bespoke web browser. Again, Canonical invoked a Google product, saying that a Gmail user could utilise their inbox via a separate 'app', rather than the web browser.

Of course, the problem with web apps is that they don't work if you are not online. In response to this Canonical told us that in its view UK consumers users tend to be online all the time, so web apps are okay, and that this is 'the way that the world is moving. Generally speaking people are straight online when they boot their PCs'.

Canonical also said it have thought very carefully about the way on and offline is presented to users.

Ubuntu 12.10: screenshots (click to enlarge)

Ubuntu 12.0

Ubuntu 12.0

Ubuntu 12.0

Ubuntu 12.0

Oh, and in case you were wondering, this is a quetzal (with thanks to Wikipedia):

Quetzal - it's a bird