Coming in Ubuntu 13.04: Purchases from the Desktop
Searching in the Dash in the latest version of Ubuntu has been very widely debated recently, especially as many users express umbrage at the fact that, by default, Amazon search results are included in results. Desktop search, though, is an ongoing point of focus for Canonical in improving Ubuntu and a new post from Canonical's Cristian Parrino makes clear what some of the advancements in Ubuntu 13.04's desktop search will be. Instant purchases from the desktop are on the slate.
According to Parrino's post, these enhancements will show up in version 13.04:
Instant Purchasing – being able to purchase music or apps directly from the Dash, without opening a browser or a separate client. In 13.04, we expect to enable instant payments, powered by Ubuntu One, for both applications from the Software Center and music from the Music Store – to deliver the fastest possible purchasing experience directly from the Dash.
Smart Scopes – Scopes are the daemons capable of presenting local or remote information right in the Dash. In 13.04, we will increase the number of scopes installed by default in Ubuntu (including many existing community developed scopes) and introduce the ability to automatically light up the right ones based on their relevancy to a user’s search query. For example, a search for “The Beatles” is likely to trigger the Music and Video scopes, showing results that will contain local and online sources – with the online sources querying your personal cloud as well as other free and commercial sources like YouTube, Last.fm, Amazon, etc. To achieve this, the Dash will call a new smart scope service which will return ranked online search results, which the Dash will then balance against local results to return the most relevant information to the user.
More Suggestions and User Controls – the More Suggestions scope, which currently returns relevant commercial content available from the Ubuntu One Music Store and Amazon, will expand to include more retailers. We are also testing a few additional user controls like filters for local and global searching – more to come on this front as we learn from those sessions. In the meantime, users can already focus a search to local files only with a simple super-f keystroke.
"The music and video lenses in the Dash have queried online sources since their introduction, and we will continue to expand our online sources over the next releases," says Parrino. Some users are definitely going to counter that Canonical is going commercial and threatening privacy with its changes to Ubuntu desktop search, but Parrino says the company's findings say that the planned changes will please the majority: "Our testing has overwhelmingly shown that this integrated and unified search feature is the best experience for the vast majority of users – and the best user experience will always be included as a default on Ubuntu," he writes.
"Default" is going to be a key issue in the implementation of these new features. In the case of the Amazon desktop search results, users can switch them off. Let's hope Canonical makes further commercially oriented enhancements to search available on an opt-in or opt-out basis.
On the topic of privacy, Parrino writes: "Privacy is extremely important to Canonical. The data we collect is not user-identifiable (we automatically anonymize user logs and that information is never available to the teams delivering services to end users), we make users aware of what data will be collected and which third party services will be queried through a notice right in the Dash, and we only collect data that allows us to deliver a great search experience to Ubuntu users."