It is free software, and there are several ways to get it. Ubuntu is also available in a variety of flavors, from the educational Edubuntu version, to the KDE-enabled Kubuntu version, to Xubuntu for those that like a sparser looking/feeling desktop interface, to their very popular Ubuntu Server Edition (which is really great for LAMP installs, among other things).
The normal image download of Ubuntu is also a LiveCD, which allows you to boot off of the CD and give Ubuntu a try, without worrying about damaging or altering your existing OS/setup. It does run a bit slower in this mode, since it’s not actually installed but instead running directly off the CD in RAM only, but it should otherwise be a working version of Ubuntu you can kick the tires on and try out before you commit to it. Pretty powerful stuff.
You can also download an “alternate desktop CD” version; it does not include the Live CD functionality, instead it uses a text-based installer, and is a slightly smaller download. I recommend you skip this version, unless you know you specifically need it.
Who should try Ubuntu? Well, the LiveCD will allow anyone to simply pop in a disc and try it out, so I think everyone should, at least once. You’ve got nothing to lose but a some time downloading and burning it to CD, and again, it’s totally free.
And yes, it’s probably a bit different from what you may be used to, but it’s really the same in most of the ways that matter to a typical PC user. Will Windows users love it? That depends on how stuck you are on the familiarity of Windows. Most of the things the average person does with Windows can be easily accomplished for free using a Linux distro like Ubuntu, which already includes–out of the ‘box’–Firefox, OpenOffice.org’s office suite, and tons of other useful “everyday” software most people want and need. We use it here, daily–both the Desktop and Server editions–and love it.
If you have questions or want to get even more into it, feel free to contact us to set up a demo, give a presentation, or arrange some training. Ubuntu offers both free and paid support and paid training as well.
(Image from Ubuntu.com)