I was really excited last April when Jaunty came out. This time...not so much. Don't get me wrong, I like the new release, and the machine I'm typing this from is upgraded to it pretty quickly, but from the perception of Joe User, it seems more like an LTS upgrade. Here's what I've seen that's new:
First, there is the usual shiny. The icons are different. This version includes some nice wallpapers, and the boot process was made shinier by replacing Usplash with Xsplash. Of course, there is just this odd-looking Ubuntu logo while you're waiting for it to appear. The Xsplash screen is just plain gorgeous, but vaguely-beige logo that shows up beforehand is at least one step back. It's just ugly.
Once again, boot times seem to have been improved. I can't put my finger on it and I haven't bothered to time the differences, but it certainly feels faster.
A few new apps and some changes to existing ones. Network Tools adds some standard tools like pinging and port scanning, but nothing that wasn't already easily installed by those who needed it (or skipped if using bash). The Disk Utility is a nice addition, but it's only a mild improvement over gparted -- SMART information and a different way of looking at the partitions. The Ubuntu Software Center is even simpler than Add/Remove Programs was. As if IM using Pidgin was hard, as far as I can tell, Empathy makes A/V chat easy. A bunch of programs received upgrades, such as Firefox to 3.5 and OpenOffice.org to 3.1. Aside from these kinds of things, nothing earthshaking.
One notable exception to the otherwise nice-but-not-groundbreaking list is Ubuntu One. Now by default there is cloud storage. For cheap power users like myself, the 2GB storage is just a drop in the bucket and with the US economy being in the toilet, spending $10 or $20 a month for extra storage just isn't an option unless you *really* need it. Dropbox has the exact same storage costs and is cross-platform, unlike Ubuntu One. If you need cloud-base file synchronization with at least one Window$ box, this is a much better option. Still, Ubuntu One is nice, too.
Maybe I was expecting more because some of Canonical's previous releases have been major improvements. Karmic Koala is more of an incremental improvement. There are other big fish to fry, such as simple remote desktop access with FreeNX or a decent entry-level desktop publishing -- sorry, Scribus doesn't cut it in this case. Yes, these are "merely" apps, but there are plenty of improvements that can be made. I'm hoping Lucid Lynx makes some real headlines, but for now, I'm quite content with Karmic.