Ubuntu smartphone developer preview arrives next week

Ubuntu smartphone developer preview arrives next week

Summary: Ubuntu Linux for the smartphone is taking a big step forward. The developer preview will be available next week for Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4 smartphones


It's almost here! Six weeks after Canonical first revealed that they were throwing their Ubuntu Linux hat into the smartphone ring, the company announced that on February 21, they'll be releasing the Touch Developer Preview of Ubuntu.

The developer preview of Ubuntu on smartphones arrives next week.

According to Canonical, "Images and open source code for the Touch Developer Preview of Ubuntu will be published on Thursday 21st February, supporting the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4 smartphones."

This version, while it will be bootable, isn't suitable for casual users. It's "intended for enthusiasts and developers, to familiarize themselves with Ubuntu's smartphone experience and develop applications on spare handsets. Tools that manage the flashing of the phone will be available on the same day in the Ubuntu archives, making it easy to keep a device up to date with the latest version of the Touch Developer Preview."

If you happen to be at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona in late February you can have you phones flashed to Ubuntu by Canonical team members at the Ubuntu stand, booth number 81D30, App Planet Hall 8.1, where Ubuntu will be shown on a range of devices.

This release comes earlier than expected. When I spoke to Jono Bacon, Ubuntu's community manager in January, he told me that the developer release of Ubuntu for phones wouldn't be ready until March.

Of course, this code release is primarily for Ubuntu developers. In addition, while it's going to be released for the Nexus smartphone line, Canonical also asserts that it  will enable "developers to port the platform to other devices. Our platform supports a wide range of screen sizes and resolutions. Developers who have experience bringing up phone environments will find it relatively easy to port Ubuntu to current handsets" said Pat McGowan, who leads the Ubuntu phone integration effort in a statement. €"We look forward to adding support for additional devices for everyday testing and experimentation."

Canonical will maintain a site that details the install process and will include a constantly updated supported device list.

Canonical's goal is for there to be one common version of Ubuntu that "will deliver a mobile, tablet, desktop or TV experiences depending on the device it is installed on, or where it is docked. Ubuntu 13.10 (due in October) will include a complete entry-level smartphone experience."

Canonical has published a mobile Ubuntu Preview software development kit (SDK)  and App Design Guides to allow developers to create applications for the full range of Ubuntu platforms. The toolkit provides a range of documented templates to enable native applications to be created quickly and easily. These use QML (Qt Meta Language) widgets, on top of HTML5 and OpenGL for quick interface development.

The App Design Guides explain how these templates can be used to design and build beautiful and usable apps. The end result, Canonical promises, is an operating system where "Developers will not need to cross-compile or package applications differently for phone, tablet, PC and TV. One platform serves all four, a single application binary can do the same"

"This release marks the threshold of wider engagement -- both with industry and community," said Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu, in a statement. "For developers, contributors and partners, there is now a coherent experience that warrants attention. The cleanest, most stylish mobile interface around."

Interested in trying it? Be ready to download the code and images on February 21 from the Ubuntu touch install Wiki.

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Topics: Smartphones, Linux, Mobile OS, Mobility, Ubuntu

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  • If I have a supported device ....

    I will be VERY interested. I like full freedom on all my portable devices.
  • A reason to buy the Nexus 4 smartphone?

    When support for Android ends, replace it with Ubuntu. Nice.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • I think Samsung would be the first OEM to release a

    commercial Ubuntu Phone. Look at their portfolio, they have built phones using almost every OS except iOS and few others.
    Ram U
    • Just for debate's sake I'll put a penny on HTC...

      They were very quick to use windows phone 8?? (Let us never speak of previous iterations of previous WP devices; rust in pieces WP6.1 ... I hated you so much)

      Personally I'd like to see a team at Motorola who still have a v3 in the cupboard come up with one.
    • Why would Samsung commit to a Linux phone?

      They OWN the Android market and are the only vendor making any money at Android. Why would they pollute their primary money maker and release Ubuntu?
      • Do you mean, "Why would Samsung commit to a GNU/Linux phone?"

        Because Samsung is already committed to a Linux phone and it's called Android (Android is not GNU/Linux).

        Samsung is also working with The Linux Foundation on Tizen, created from the ashes of MeeGo. They're involved with Tizen in an effort to free themselves a bit from Android and its strong Google influence. And, perhaps, to eventually grow their own app and media ecosystem.

        Thus, I would agree with you that Samsung would likely not be first in line to develop a Ubuntu smartphone. But, beyond that, never say never.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
        • Re: Do you mean, "Why would Samsung commit to a GNU/Linux phone?"

          Ubuntu don't use the term "GNU/Linux".
          • RE: Ubuntu don't use the term "GNU/Linux"

            I could not care less. Debian does use the term:


            And since Ubuntu is derived from Debian (unstable), it IS GNU/Linux.
            Rabid Howler Monkey
      • rule #1 of any investor and any business

        don't put your eggs all in one basket.
  • I have a Galaxy Nexus

    I'm going to install Ubuntu on it ASAP.
    Michael Alan Goff
  • Why?

    I see no compelling reason to install this on my Nexus 4. When you can do something with this that I cannot let me know.
    • RE: "I see no compelling reason to install this on my Nexus 4"

      At some point, support from Google (if unlocked) or the carrier will end and the device will get no more security updates or upgrades (with security updates included). Thrifty people who are not Android bigots might decide to install Ubuntu on the device and receive security updates from Canonical, Ltd.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Yup

        That is why I run Android 4.1.2 (CM 10.2) on my little old Nook Color as well as on my Nook Tablet. They are like whole new devices.
    • Why do people climb mountains?

      Because they are there.

      The "doing" of something out of the ordinary can be challenging and rewarding. Taking absolute control of your own device is a very nice feeling for some folks.
      • Very true!

        I got my iPhone 3gs from under the bed last weekend just to jailbreak it and have a play. End result was a Dfu restore, but playing with it was a laugh. I've just gotten too used to the more advanced tweaks I can do on my razr.

        I knew I wasn't going to start using it again; my 4s is far superior and my razr far more mod-able, but I had a play with it because I could do; they finally jail broke 6 and I wanted to see what was new (not JB'ing my work phone) so I had a play... To my mind why wouldn't you? When I had an X1 I tried every build of gingerbread that the dev teams came out with on it.
  • Motorola *had* the thought, but Google squelched it.

    The Atrix, and the WiMAx version of the Photon (the latter being my phone) have a webtop app that turn the phone into a desktop/laptop with a crippled version of Ubuntu. It was a "neat hack."

    Canonical did its proof of concept using an Atrix, with a *non* crippled version - and I have been waiting ever since for the commercial implementation.

    The Motorola webtop also had an AIW (Android in Window) aspect, to allow the use of the phone while connected to the webtop. Something like this will be critical for Canonical's phone. I cannot wait for it.
    Joann Prinzivalli
    • Drat, it looks like Canonical is going with GSM only . . .

      . . . which leaves out Verizon and Sprint as potential carriers. That means I have to consider the possibility of switching carriers if and when it comes out. In the meantime, since there's no CDMA inclusion, I'm going to have to forego making an investment at this time.
      Joann Prinzivalli
      • Then again . . .

        If Samsung puts this into some of its hardware and it's CDMA, that may seal the deal if I can have it with Sprint.
        Joann Prinzivalli