Just the other day in my operating systems class, a student asked me why Ubuntu was being given out for free. I gave him the stock answer that operating systems had become a commodity and were being pirated anyway; so why not just give them out for free and sell services and other products on top of that. In a nutshell, Mark Shuttleworth is building his own private army (and I am one of them.)
Coincidentally, that same day, I found from my friend Yolynne that Ubuntu One had become available.
So what is Ubuntu One? I'll let the picture speak for itself.
Put it another way, Mark Shuttleworth wants your files.
All right, kidding aside, it's an interesting business model, a sort of sideways-stepping into Google's storage territory. I mean, think about it: to most of us, Google really is one huge storage repository, courtesy of Google Mail and Google Docs.
Ubuntu One offers two plans: free 2GB, or 10GB for $10/month. The latter offer is a bit too much for me for now (both space-wise and cash-wise), for the interim, I the 2GB should suffice.
So what differentiates Ubuntu One from other personal storage plans? The web interface looks way too similar, and for a few moments, I actually found myself wondering: "Is this it? Why do I have to use Ubuntu for this?"
That's because Ubuntu One had me download and install a client. I must say, the installation procedure's integration with Firefox was quite impressive: through creative use of APT and DEB files, it stepped me through the modification of the repository and managed the download of the Ubuntu One client. (Part of me is wondering if this could be used as an attack vector in the future; all things being possible, I think it's still remote because it still prompted me at critical points. I would think that the payoff for a cracker would be bigger if he went for the repository itself.)
So just what is the difference? Waht does the client install? It introduces another folder on your Ubuntu system that automatically syncs with the Ubuntu One service. Then, when you can sync the service with another Ubuntu computer.
I won't show the screencaps of the client installation anymore as it's already well-documented on the Ubuntu One site.
To you and to your system, it really just looks like another folder: drag and drop files to the folder and it syncs with the service, and through that, with other computers. Syncing is done in the background and doesn't interfere with your other work.
How does this service bode? It certainly looks like an area with growth possibilities. More than that, I think it shows us what lies in the future for Ubuntu.