Personally, I’ve been using Mandriva/Mandrake for about 5 years, and I don’t see anything that Ubuntu has that Mandrake didn’t have 3 years ago. I’m not sure why Ubuntu is catching all this attention. Maybe I’m missing something really big, but I seriously don’t see what makes Ubuntu so much better than Mandriva, or most other desktop oriented distros. I actually prefer Mandriva, because I find that the Admin tools are much better.
The comment is right. There is nothing that Ubuntu does that Mandrake wasn’t doing 3 years ago. So why did Ubuntu became so popular?
I guess there is one simple answer, and it comes with five letters: GNOME. Ok, you can kick me now, but listen this: what every single distribution was doing 3 years ago with KDE? They were trying really hard to mimic Windows. Users would look at it, see “Oh, it looks like Windows” but, when using it, it would not behave like Windows. Inside their heads, they would say “This Windows sucks”.
Now Ubuntu chose GNOME as default desktop interface (but you can have Kubuntu and KDE, if you want to). When users look at it, they don’t see Windows; they realize it is something completely different. Even Mac users don’t see a Mac OS there and know they are dealing with a different beast. And that’s were they get rid of old habits and learn news things — and learn that there are easier ways to solve problems.
Ubuntu is popular because it chose to be Linux, not Windows.