Ubuntu One, an online file storage service from Ubuntu's backers, could be a unique, innovative way to seamlessly integrate cloud-style computing into the most popular Linux desktop. Right now, though, it just looks like Dropbox.
That wouldn't be such a bad thing, necessarily. We're certainly fans of how Dropbox does one thing very well—keep a single folder synchronised with the web—and allows for a few neat other functions, too, like working as an ultimate password syncer, working with outside folders through symbolic link setups, and, perhaps best of all, working on Windows, Mac, and—take note—even surprisingly well on Linux.
And that kind of almost-any-platform power would seem to be a pretty key part of any service that flies the banner of "seamless." Ubuntu is, by most accounts, fairly aware and respectful of the fact that its users are likely to be dual-booters with Windows or Mac on another partition. Since it plans to offer a web interface that offers access while you're "away from your computers," that could mean a really convenient download option for any system not running the latest release of Ubuntu (which Ubuntu One requires, at least for the time being). But downloading isn't synchronisation, and, as Apple thinkers like Daring Fireball's John Gruber have testified to, backing up or manually synchronising files is a chore akin to signing up for life insurance—the less time and mind space get spent on it, the more likely it is to actually get done.
So, for the Ubuntu fans who want to see their system get a fair shake (like the writer tapping this out on a Jaunty-powered laptop) let's hope Ubuntu One is more than just a tightly integrated and single-platform synchronisation tool with 2GB of space for free users and more for paid subscribers—those, it seems, aren't exactly rare these days. Early tester David Thomas writes that the basic offerings will get "more collaboration-focused features that will be released over the coming months," and we hope he's right.
In the meantime, Ubuntu 9.04 users can request an Ubuntu One invitation and see how it works for themselves. Already in? Tell us what's unique, or just well executed, in the comments.