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Canonical Announces Ubuntu for Smartphones

Canonical Announces Ubuntu for Smartphones
January 2, 2013 2:17PM

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Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth said the Ubuntu for mobile platform would be available in 2013 on Samsung's Galaxy Nexus devices as a replacement for the usual Android. No specific carriers or manufacturers have yet announced support, but Canonical said mobile Ubuntu-specific phones are expected to be released in late 2013 or early 2014.

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Move over iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10. On Wednesday, Canonical announced a version of Ubuntu for both ARM and x86 mobile devices -- allowing users to employ their smartphones, when docked with a monitor and keyboard/mouse, as an Ubuntu PC.

The new release actually uses the Android kernel and drivers, but not the Java virtual machine, and is designed to run on either entry-level or high-end devices. The platform is not a new OS, but what the company describes as a "smartphone interface" for Ubuntu.

In February, the company announced Ubuntu for Android, which was designed for using a desktop Android machine from a mobile device. The newly announced mobile Ubuntu, however, is a separate product that runs on smartphones without the need for Android.

'Never Existed Before'

The idea, said former Canonical CEO and founder Mark Shuttleworth in a video on the company's Web site, is to create "something that has never existed before: one platform for all kinds of computing -- your phone, tablet, desktop, TV, of course the cloud, and your personal supercomputer." This is one platform with a family of interfaces, he said.

Shuttleworth said the Linux-based Ubuntu uses each edge of its new mobile interface for specific purposes. Favorite apps are hidden under the left edge, for instance, and a search function under the top edge can, the company said, "figure out" where to search for what the user is requesting.

Canonical said the interface allows users to find content and switch apps faster than on other devices. Controls appear when a user wants them, all apps have voice and text commands, every app has automatic backup to a personal cloud, and the welcome screen features changing, personalized art. An expansion of the Ubuntu Software Center will feature a mobile app store.

'First-Class Citizens'

In the new release, Canonical said that Web apps are "first-class citizens" that can use system features as a native app might, while native apps have full access to OpenGL and GLES. Additionally, there's full compatibility with hardware that currently runs Android.

Shuttleworth said that the Ubuntu for mobile platform will be available sometime in 2013 on Samsung's Galaxy Nexus devices as a replacement for the usual Android. No specific carriers or manufacturers have yet announced support, but the company said mobile Ubuntu-specific phones are expected to be released later this year or early next year. The initial target markets, in addition to developers, are consumers looking for an entry-level device, and, because it allows IT departments to provide one device for PC, thin client and phone functions, enterprises.

Shuttleworth told the BBC that, at this point in the evolution of mobile devices, the "power of the phone is crossing over that with the baseline processing power of laptops." He predicted that Apple and Microsoft would eventually also bring their phone and laptop OS's together, as Ubuntu is doing.

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