In a post to his blog, Mark Shuttleworth has announced Ubuntu 11.10, following the naming scheme of previous releases with the subtitle Oneiric Ocelot. Continuing on from the changes Natty Narwhal will bring to the table, Oneiric will be focused on refining the new Unity interface, hopefully enabling users of a wider range of hardware to experience the newer features.
Oneiric has its roots in the Greek word for dream, "oneiros", and is used to describe dreaming or dreams themselves. Shuttleworth sees Oneiric Ocelot as explaining how innovation comes about: "part daydream, part discipline."
In the meantime, the Ubuntu community has its efforts focused on Natty Narwhal, due for an April release. Natty will bring the Unity user interface to all editions of Ubuntu, having debuted on the Netbook edition in October.
Unity is designed with ease of use and effective use of screen estate in mind, but the move hasnt seen its fair share of controversy from the GNOME community, who fear Unity may fragment the userbase. While Unity moves away from the traditional GNOME interface, GNOME will eventually be included with Ubuntu again as an optional extra, most likely with Oneiric.
Shuttleworth says that Natty is a "stretch release", so dont expect any radical changes in Oneiric. One new feature that will make Oneiric is a 2D version of Unity for those running on lower-powered hardware, but beyond that, Shuttleworth is remaining tight-lipped.
Post-Oneiric plans are already being mapped out, with the as-yet-unnamed 12.04 being a Long Term Support release. LTS releases tend to focus on stability and long-term functionality. Canonical will need to make decisions on which platforms to support for its cloud-based services with 12.04, but Shuttleworth is confident that they will be able to come to a decision based on "free and flexible terms."