The first thing you’ll notice upon booting Raring Ringtail is that Unity, and the PC in general, is faster and more responsive. This is down to Canonical putting a lot of time and effort into tweaking Ubuntu’s core libraries, to reduce the CPU and memory usage of system processes, resulting in a snappier interface (Unity) and installed apps.
This tightening of Ubuntu’s core should also reduce power consumption, which is good news for laptop users. While these changes will obviously help laptop and desktop users, their primary purpose is to prepare Ubuntu for its debut on smartphones and tablets, which generally have less RAM and weaker processors. While we’re discussing core changes, Ubuntu 13.04 now uses the Linux 3.88 kernel — a sizable upgrade from Ubuntu 12.10′s Linux 3.5 kernel (which had a nasty security vulnerability, incidentally).
Moving from the core and into userland, Ubuntu 13.04 features updated versions of Firefox, LibreOffice, and Python.
The workspace switcher has been removed from the Unity launcher by default, and Ubuntu One (Canonical’s cloud storage service) can now be controlled from the system tray. If you add some social media accounts, such as Twitter or Facebook, there’s also a new “Friends” lens, which is a lot like the People app in Windows 8 — basically, you can browse your friends’ latest updates, like, retweet, and so on.
Overall, though, not a whole lot has outwardly changed in Ubuntu 13.04 — it’s definitely more of a tweak-and-polish release. For a good overview of Ubuntu 13.04′s new features, watch the video below.
If you want to try out Ubuntu 13.04, your best bet is to download the ISO and install it in VirtualBox — or, if you’re feeling daring, and perhaps a little disillusioned with Windows 8, how about you try running Ubuntu 13.04 as your primary OS? You might be pleasantly surprised. If you’d rather just dangle a toe or two in the water, there’s an excellent guided tour of 13.04 up on the Ubuntu website.
Looking ahead, Canonical now has its work cut out with Ubuntu 13.10, which will introduce the Ubuntu Touch interface for smartphones and tablets.
Ever since the Unity interface was first introduced, we have presumed that Ubuntu was heading in the direction of mobile devices — and now we’re just six months away from it actually happening. It’s definitely a savvy move for Canonical, with the PC market slowly dying, but whether it can actually carve out a section of the mobile market from Apple, Google, and Microsoft remains to be seen.