Not too long ago, Canonical announced that the arguably most popular desktop Linux distribution, Ubuntu, will be coming to the smartphone. Now, two days before the Ubuntu Phone image releases for the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4 — and around eight months before Canonical projects to be shipping hardware with the operating system — Canonical will continue its assault on the mobile scene with the announcement of Ubuntu for tablets.
Ubuntu for tablets isn’t some totally different operating system than Ubuntu for phones. Basically, it’s the same OS, but with an interface tailored to a tablet rather than the smaller screen of a phone. However, now that the final (so far) Ubuntu interface has been announced, Canonical is able to tout that its operating system can morph to any interface style — phone, tablet, PC, or TV. Simply hook your Ubuntu phone up to a display, and the phone will project the Ubuntu OS with the appropriate interface to said display.
Canonical isn’t satisfied with just projecting a new interface onto a different display, and the OS will sport a “side stage,” which is a multitasking feature that will allow a phone app to appear on screen at the same time as, and work side-by-side with, a tablet app. The OS will also feature a voice-controlled HUD, bringing all the magic of screaming at Siri and your Kinect to the mobile Linux space.
As with Ubuntu for phones, tablet navigation will primarily focus on edge-based gestures for accessing apps, settings, and controls. Canonical boasts that no physical or soft buttons are required. The OS will also feature multiple user accounts per device, fully encrypted.
The tablet interface can scale down to as small as six inches to as large as 20 inches, with resolutions of 100PPI to 450PPI. As previously mentioned, Canonical is stressing the morphing capability of the OS, noting that when the tablet is docked to a keyboard, it can offer a “full PC experience” with access to remote Windows applications.
Along with the Ubuntu for phones preview image releasing on February 21, Canonical will also release a preview image for tablets for the Nexus 7 and 10.
So far, there isn’t quite enough information to really delve into what Canonical is getting at with this device convergence. In theory, it would be convenient (and really cool) if you could carry around your Ubuntu phone and dock it to various screens in order to invoke the PC or TV interface. Though cool, we’d need to see how the feature can make our lives simpler, as for example, docking our phone to our TV in order to watch movies is really just an extra step to do something that our media setups already do. The optimized scalability is certainly useful, but we can’t see the phone’s ability to plug into a monitor and display a PC operating system as replacing our desktops just yet, considering whenever we leave the house and remove the phone, we’d be losing said desktop.
However, the ability to morph OS interfaces and beam a “full” operating system to your TV, tablet, or PC monitor from your phone absolutely has potential. Aside from being able to access all of our data regardless of what device is available at the time, we need more information as to how Canonical intends to change our lives with the new OS. Color us intrigued.
Check out Canonical’s device page here.