Ubuntu Linux heads to smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.

Ubuntu Linux heads to smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.

Summary: Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu Linux, plans to take on Android, iOS and Windows on the smartphones, tablets and smart TVs.

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Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical & Ubuntu

Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu Linux, will announce at the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Orlando, FL, that they will be taking Ubuntu Linux to smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.

In an interview in an advance of the official announcement, Shuttleworth told me, that their short term plans are to make Ubuntu 12.04, the next long term support (LTS) of their Linux distribution, as stable as possible and to give the Unity desktop interface, it's final fit and polish for both home and business Linux desktop users. After that, however, Canonical will be expanding its popular Linux desktop to all computing devices.

Shuttleworth said, "This is a natural expansion of our idea as Ubuntu as Linux for human beings. As people have moved from desktop to new form factors for computing, it's important for us to reach out to out community on these platforms. So, we'll embrace the challenge of how to use Ubuntu on smartphones, tablets and smart-screens."

While Canonical had never said that they were planning on exporting Unity, its GNOME-based desktop, beyond the desktop, I, and others, have long thought that Ubuntu's Unity Linux desktop looked like a natural for tablets. Indeed, when Unity first shipped in the fall of 2010 Jono Bacon, the Ubuntu Community Manager, told me that "all the pieces are in place to create an Ubuntu tablet."

It turns out it wasn't just the technical pieces. Shuttleworth told me that they "had been talking to partners for eighteen months" about bring Ubuntu to smartphones and tablets. That's one reason why, even though some people such as ZDNet's own Jason Perlow are filled with rage over some Unity design elements, such as its unmovable left-hand tool bar, Canonical won't be moving it or, allowing users to easily change it.

Welcome to Ubuntu 11.10 and the look of Ubuntu's future tablet. (Photo Gallery)

Shuttleworth explained, "Unity has a strong design vision and part of that is to provide coherent screens across platforms. While it's not one size fit all a common design is vital to it." Still, "Nothing is cast in stone. Still, since Unity on the desktop is part of a greater whole, we look at the experience as a whole." So, "We want a consistent platform with a tightly structured user experience."

Ubuntu isn't the only one to see a multi-platform interface this way. Microsoft, with its Metro interface, is taking a similar approach in Windows 8. Ubuntu, however, has been shipping its new look interface since last year on desktops

Still, also like Windows 8, you won't be seeing a production version of multi-device Ubuntu anytime soon. Shuttleworth said that he expects a fully-baked and ready to go Ubuntu for all devices will appear in Ubuntu 14.04-April 2014. In the meantime, there's not even alpha code. They're taking their time because they want to get it right. Shuttleworth wouldn't say when the first code would appear.

When it does appear, it will be touch-enabled and available on all the architectures that Ubuntu currently runs on. In particular, though, Shuttleworth sees the "relationship with ARM to be critical." So, while he can't deliver "a product schedule yet, Ubuntu is already working with hardware partners to bring products to market. As progress is made Ubuntu will take the device-specific code, open source it, and roll it into standard Ubuntu."

If I were a betting man, I'd bet we'd see developer tablets and smartphones with ARM processors to appear in the second quarter of 2012. Canonical really wants the LTS version of its Linux to be business ready. After that, though, I expect Ubuntu to focus its energy on other platforms.

You may well ask, "How can Ubuntu expect to grab market-share in a world where Android and Apple's iOS are already so strong?" So, I asked Shuttleworth. He replied, "The device world is highly competitive and highly dynamic, while Android and iOS dominate handheld devices, disruptive elements could still establish themselves." Therefore, "Ubuntu and Windows can still be a real force."

Specifically, Shuttleworth sees "Android as its primary competitor. But, from the industry viewpoint, Google acquisition Of Motorola Mobility has shook up the hardware vendors, so some of them are looking for non-Android alternatives."

Shuttleworth added that Canonical can be very congenial to service partners and independent software vendors (ISV)s. With Ubuntu, "there's plenty of room to share revenue with providers. We've also already heard from people who are already shipping tablets that they want Ubuntu on the tablet." In addition, "Ubuntu already has a developer and customer base."

As for the other alternatives, "OEMs have tough choices. They can build their own operating system, such as what HP did for a while with webOS or work in a consortium, Consortiums [such as the one behind the now effectively defunct MeeGo] can't win. They can't take a forceful, direct view with their products. The smartest OEM strategy is to play people off against each other. Thus, some OEMs want to have Ubuntu as a disruptive element. A strong Ubuntu can be both more co-operative with OEMs than a larger company and give them leverage with Google and Microsoft." Finally, and this is telling, "Ubuntu has shown that we can hit deadlines and innovate. We can deliver a good plan and products."

Frankly, this is a pragmatic plan that I think may well work. What do you think? Do you want Ubuntu on your tablet? Your phone?

Related Stories:

Why Ubuntu 11.10 fills me with rage

Ubuntu Linux will try for the business desktop

Ubuntu Linux 11.10: Unity comes of age (Review)

Ubuntu Linux heads to the clouds

Gallery: Installing the latest Ubuntu Linux: Ubuntu 11.10

Topics: Smartphones, Hardware, Laptops, Linux, Mobility, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software, Tablets

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  • RE: Ubuntu Linux heads to smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.

    The left hand toolbar sucks and the lack of options in the UI will always leave me reaching for another GUI!
    slickjim
    • RE: Ubuntu Linux heads to smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.

      @Peter Perry Here is a very good suggestion for those who dislike Unity & for Ubuntu users who liked the 'good old' Ubuntu: Install Cairo / AWN Dock<br><br>Ubuntu 11.10 + Cairo / AWN Dock = Awesome!<br><br>This way you have the eye candy of Unity & Cairo Dock. I find Cairo Dock has some functionality & accessibility that has yet to come to Unity.
      IndianArt
      • This could help, but the idea of Ubuntu going to other than PC devices is

        @IndianArt: ... ridiculous, because Ubuntu is horrible in UI.
        DDERSSS
      • RE: Ubuntu Linux heads to smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.

        @IndianArt

        KDE 4.7.2 + compiz 0.8.8 (0.9.x series awful) + glx-dock.
        Alan Smithie
      • RE: Ubuntu Linux heads to smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.

        @IndianArt
        I've used this same approach too and have also set the unity dock to only appear when my mouse-pointer hovers over it. So I have the best of both worlds. If anyone thinks the Ubuntu GUI sucks they don't know what they're doing.
        Win8AnUglyDisaster
      • RE: Ubuntu Linux heads to smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.

        @IndianArt
        PS Another solution thanks to Jo-Erlend Schinstad: "However, if you just want a window switcher at the bottom of the screen, then you can easily get that with Unity. We have several panels to choose from, like xfce4-panel, which you can install by following this link: <a href="http://apt.ubuntu.com/p/xfce4-panel" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://apt.ubuntu.com/p/xfce4-panel</a>. When it is installed, you can run it by pressing alt+f2 and typing xfce4-panel. If you want to keep using it, then youll want to add that command to your startup applications. If you want to see a screenshot, here you go:<a href="http://ubuntuone.com/0X1JuF6HRTwEb5U1JyIk1D" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://ubuntuone.com/0X1JuF6HRTwEb5U1JyIk1D</a><br>. As you can see, its perfectly possible and easy to have both."
        IndianArt
    • RE: Ubuntu Linux heads to smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.

      @Peter Perry
      Unity is the best interface out there, however there is lots more room for improvement. Unity is not set in stone. Some are slow to embrace something different.
      root12
      • RE: Ubuntu Linux heads to smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.

        @root12 This is the same mistake MS made. Forcing me to learn a new way to do simple things because THEY thought it was an improvement. I'm done using ubuntu because of it, but thankfully there is kubuntu so I don't have to suffer.

        All they had to do is leave the menu there and allow me to get rid of the huge desktop space wasting icon bar. It sucks, it's ugly, it doesn't help anything. It's a roadblock to launching the programs I want.

        Sorry, but it's the first Linux crap I've dealt with.
        timspublic1@...
      • RE: Unity is the best interface out there

        @root12 <br><br>Really???<br><br>I do not want the aggravation of having to deal with the training of ~1000 employees currently quite proficient with Gnome. For those <i>guinea pigs</i> that <u>volunteered</u> to try out Unity in 11.04; the gist of their comments were: <b>it sucks</b>. <br><br>When you get one of those <i>do more with less</i> memos from the "Ivory Towers"; and training money is hard to get, what do you do? I have a couple of employees playing with 11.10, and they too can't stand Unity.<br><br>Unless we can make the transition from Gnome to Unity painless, come the time to move to 12.04, Unity is going to get ripped out.<br><br>Now, piggybacking to `timspublic's` comment below, The biggest problem with Unity is that it forces a completely new UI; with, IMHO, no appreciable benefit for a <b>desktop</b> user. It amounts to Ubuntu's invention of the <i>dammed ribbon</i>. <br><br>I installed Gnome-fallback-session in order to rid my dev machine of Unity, and found that the <b>usual</b> RightClick on the panel at the top <b>did not allow you to create a launcher</b>. An obscenity laden tirade, and some Googling informed me that the action to do that (create a launcher) is now <b>ALT+RightClick</b>. Even though, where previously, you could space the launchers where you wanted, it <u>appears</u> that you have 'defined areas', where the launchers seem to stack against each other.<br><br>I only hope that before 12.04 arrives, canonical will <b>fix</b> these serious mistakes.
        fatman65536
      • RE: Ubuntu Linux heads to smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.

        @root12
        I made switch to Linux Mint (with gnome) a year ago afte years of fiddling with various distros. B4 going with Mint I'd tried Bodhi Linux on a PIII Toshiba. GUI is Enlightenment, very lightweight. But there's where many Linux newbies haven't yet learned that you can use whatever GUI you want either by which distro you choose or adding another as an option later on. I'm happy with Gnome but expect the next Mint to be something else. I'll adjust if needed.

        I like the Ubuntu takes on Android idea though. Kind of like a family feud isn't it? If Android is different according to what device you have, maybe Ubuntu will put something together for phones and tablets that will be more unified! One can hope.
        bunkport
    • RE: Ubuntu Linux heads to smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.

      @Peter Perry
      Unity is hard to get used to. The Gnome 3.0 GUI is probably nicer than Unity. But I prefer the comfort of the Gnome 2.0 interface that Debian still uses. It is antiquated looking but very familiar and the traditional menu is still the fastest way to get to apps.
      speedwheels
      • RE: Ubuntu Linux heads to smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.

        @speedwheels Exactly!
        timspublic1@...
      • RE: Ubuntu Linux heads to smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.

        Unity is a resource hog and a pain in the butt to tweak, where it could be tweaked. I tried working with it in 11.04, switched to Linux Mint and then tried Unity again in 11.10. It still sucks. I took a stab at Gnome 3 and found similar issues. I switched to Xubuntu desktop. My machine works faster, I can put the panel (of which I only want one) where I want (which is at the bottom, not the top or left), and the menu is easy to figure out and modify.

        My desktop is not a tablet. I wish people would stop trying to make it one.
        sullivanjc
      • RE: Ubuntu Linux heads to smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.

        @speedwheels

        +1000 (employees that are currently familiar and proficient with Gnome 2.x)

        Unity sucks.
        fatman65536
      • RE: Ubuntu Linux heads to smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.

        @speedwheels A fair point. Gnome 3 is very good but takes some getting used to. Unity might be good once you get used to it, but I suspect it is impossible to get used to it.
        solri
    • RE: Ubuntu Linux heads to smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.

      @Peter Perry

      Absolutely correct! Ubuntu 10.10 was so CLEAN and intuitive. I want to clutter the screen with what **I** want, with what are my continuous and/or immediate needs.
      southvalley
    • RE: Ubuntu Linux heads to smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.

      @Peter Perry Motorola has already gone a fair distance with webtop debian running on top of android.
      LarsDennert
  • RE: Ubuntu Linux heads to smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.

    Yes, I want Ubuntu on my tablet and smartphone. I'm sure it'll be delightful on a tablet. Smartphone will require some unique apps to fit the screen size though!
    Imrhien
    • Looking forward to devices with hacked hardware drivers

      @Imrhien They will work perfectly and better than the OEM's drivers.
      wackoae
    • RE: Ubuntu Linux heads to smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.

      @Imrhien
      Me too. Now that Microsoft has killed MeeGo, I really hope Ubuntu will step up.
      root12