At the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Copenhagen today, developers discussed audio latency for gaming on the premise that "audio latency is relatively high on Linux and we need to be competitive with other platforms."
Lowering the audio latency is desired since Ubuntu is trying to make a big push as a gaming platform
with Valve and other game studios beginning to target the Linux distribution as a supported platform. They view a 16ms audio latency as their target, which would be equal to one 60Hz frame for gaming. Numbers talked about earlier this week
put the audio latency average as about 25ms when going through PulseAudio or 5ms if using raw ALSA.
Aside from lowering the audio latency, also viewed as important is ensuring syncing audio and video. As far as how they plan to improve audio for Ubuntu and Linux in general, that really wasn't anything specific discussed at length -- no plans were drawn to overhaul PulseAudio, dropping PulseAudio, or any other fundamental changes to the Ubuntu desktop. This is similar to their desire to have better Linux OpenGL drivers
but not with any real commitment for major changes upstream but are looking to more or less offload the work to the community
In the end what the session came down to was make sure open-source apps are properly syncing audio/video and investigate ways to add latency tests to their game measurement tests, working hda-jack-retest into the Ubuntu sound settings, and basically just work on more ways to test audio latency. (I certainly would welcome more audio latency tests too for automated benchmarking through the Phoronix Test Suite
as an important Linux desktop measurement.)
Referenced during the discussion were the Wine audio latency tests
and fixing a PulseAudio loopback delay