Tag Archive: ubuntu


Smartphone companies have it pretty rough – they’ve got to sink millions into research and development every year, all in the hope of making their next shiny touchscreen gewgaw the fastest, slimmest, smartest, prettiest one ever. And every year we eat it all up, and take what we’re given.

But Canonical, the folks behind the incredibly popular Ubuntu Linux distro, isn’t your average phone smartphone company. It doesn’t have a huge production budget like Samsung or Apple, so it decided to crowdfund the creation of its first phone. Turns out that’s not the only thing they’re doing differently – Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth is currently fielding questions on Reddit, and he’s expressed interest in having backers of this current project getting some sort of say over what goes in future models.

And thus, Mark may have just come up with the coolest backer perk ever. Quoth Shuttleworth:

“This first version of the Edge is to prove the concept of crowdsourcing ideas for innovation, backed by crowdfunding. If it gets greenlighted, then I think we’ll have an annual process by which the previous generation backers get to vote on the spec for the next generation of Edge.”

In case you haven’t been following the story, the Edge is an awfully handsome concept for a phone that will run Ubuntu and Android and sport a sapphire glass-covered 4.5-inch 1280 720 display, along with the “fastest available” multi-core mobile processor, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The internet being what it is, Redditors couldn’t help but throw out bits of hardware for Shuttleworth and the Edge team to consider for the current model anyway. IR blaster? A “cool idea,” he says. Wireless charging? Probably not going to happen.

Shuttleworth was pretty forthcoming when it came to lingering questions about the Edge’s design and proposed rollout. As it happens, the team is still having trouble figuring out what sort of speaker system to throw into the thing (my two cents: the closer to HTC’s Boomsound setup the better), but it Canonical has asked potential carrier partners to agree to take note of a set of conditions that should minimize bloatware if the Edge is ever picked up and sold with long-term contracts.

Now this all hinges on the notion that Canonical was right in thinking that enough people would believe in a company that has never made a smartphone before to basically pre-order one for (at least) $675. In a way, this is a perfect move – if the project hits critical mass, everyone gets a phone. If it doesn’t, well, no harm no foul. The crowdfunding movement has given a software company a shot at really making a mark in an industry dominated by giants, some of which are already feeling the pinch because their pricey flagship devices perhaps aren’t selling in the astronomical numbers they were hoping for.

And so far, things appear to be going rather well. Canonical’s Indiegogo campaign only went live three days ago and Ubuntu fans have already chipped in just a hair under $6 million. Of course, there’s no guarantee that sort of traction will continue for any serious length of time – the company has already had to add some less expensive device pricing tiers to keep the campaign from flaming out too soon, and it’s still got a ways to go before it hits the $32 million goal.

(Oh, and in case you were wondering, Shuttleworth seems to be tackling nearly every question being thrown at him – no Rampart shenanigans here.)

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.

Ubuntu for tablets

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.

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