The popular Linux distribution goes unashamedly mobile
On Tuesday evening, Mark Shuttleworth introduced the latest development in Canonical’s multi-platform strategy – Ubuntu running on a tablet.
As part of the mobility upgrade, the popular Linux distribution has received a brand new tablet-friendly interface, voice-controlled Heads-Up Display (HUD) and the same gesture control we have seen on Ubuntu for phones, which is now apparently called ‘Edge magic’.
The first developer build of the Ubuntu tablet interface will be available on Friday, as part of the previously announced Touch Developer Preview.
The first smartphones running the new OS are expected to appear on the shelves in October, with tablets following soon after.
Ubuntu on everything
Ubuntu for mobile devices contains exactly the same code that powers the long-established PC distribution. When running on a tablet, the new ‘flavour’ of the OS borrows the best features of Ubuntu on a phone, such as the quick and easy access to all of the device settings directly from any app, and the clean, button-free interface.
It also offers impressive multitasking capabilities unlike anything currently seen on Android or iOS, by allowing users to run mobile apps on one side of the screen, and tablet apps on the other.
The home screen itself is dedicated to multimedia content, and can pull pictures, music and videos from “hundreds of sources”. The OS supports screen sizes from 6 to 20 inches, pixel density from 100 to 450 PPI and “fits perfectly between phone and PC in the Ubuntu family,” according to Oren Horev, lead designer for the tablet experience.
The tablet version can also hold its own in the enterprise environment. From an IT manager’s point of view, it is nothing but a secure thin client that can be managed with the same tools as any Ubuntu server or desktop, according to Canonical. It features full-disk encryption by default, and supports multiple secure user accounts.
Shuttleworth has said time and again that these are not different systems, but the same OS with added capabilities. “Our family of interfaces now scales across all screens, so your phone can provide tablet, PC and TV experiences when you dock it. That’s unique to Ubuntu and it’s the future of personal computing,” said the Canonical founder.
This means that when docked, a tablet with Ubuntu on board will be capable of running remote Windows applications.
Since Ubuntu is compatible with any Linux-oriented Board Support Package (BSP), theoretically, most tablet chipsets designed for Android could be adapted to run Canonical’s OS in a matter of days.
However, just like with Ubuntu on a phone, the company is not in a rush to produce its own developer hardware. Instead, the new version of the OS will be demoed on Acer’s Nexus 7 and Samsung’s Nexus 10 tablets.
Smartphones and tablets running Ubuntu will be on show at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week. During the event, Canonical staff will be more than happy to ‘flash’ any compatible device to give enthusiasts a glimpse of its convergent glory.
Not everyone is convinced that Canonical can actually achieve this vision of “one OS to rule them all”. Aaron Seigo, who has contributed to the KDE free software community for the last 13 years, noted that Ubuntu’s Unity currently does not use QML at all, and hence, cannot be transplanted into a mobile OS using “the same code”.
“It is not the sort of seamless cross-device technology bridge that they are purporting,” said Seigo, before warning the developer community to take Canonical’s claims with a pinch of salt to avoid being “duped”.
You can see the trailer for Ububtu for tablets below:
How well do you know your operating systems? Take our quiz!