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Canonical unveils Ubuntu for Tablets

Canonical unveils Ubuntu for Tablets

Canonical's Mark Shuttleworth is clearly keen for Ubuntu, which began life as a spin-off from Debian Linux, to become a true multi-device platform.

Canonical has confirmed its plans to make the Linux-based Ubuntu operating system a true multi-device platform, announcing the launch of Ubuntu for Tablets alongside Ubuntu for Phones.

The latter was announced early last month, but has yet to materialise in the form of developer preview builds - something Canonical has promised to rectify by the end of the month. The first preview builds of Ubuntu for Tablets, meanwhile, will be released tomorrow for owners of Google's Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets who fancy trying something other than the stock Android software with which they ship.

Like Ubuntu for Phones, Ubuntu for Tablets is part of Canonical's grand vision of turning mobile devices into fully-fledged computers. Based on the same Linux kernel as its desktop and server Ubuntu operating system, the mobile-centric editions include a tweaked version of the company's already touch-centric Unity user interface. While it retains the iconic dock to the left-hand side of the screen, the tablet version of Unity also includes a feature dubbed Side Stage which allows two apps to run side-by-side - a web browser and an email client, for example - by positioning a larger tablet-centric application next to a smaller application designed for smartphone displays.

As with the desktop version of Ubuntu, Ubuntu for Tablets supports multiple user accounts and can use encryption to keep each user's files and settings separate from the other users - something Google's Android has only just introduced in Android 4.2 'Jelly Bean,' and at that only for tablets thanks to a patent on using the system with smartphone devices.

As with Ubuntu for Phones, Ubuntu for Tablets is part of Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth's vision to do away with the desktop altogether: connecting a keyboard, mouse and monitor to an Ubuntu-based portable device turns it into a fully-fledged ARM-based desktop machine capable of running at high output resolutions and doing anything a 'real' Ubuntu desktop can - albeit somewhat more slowly, thanks to the typical difference in performance between a battery-powered ARM processor and a high-power x86 desktop chip.

With Canonical's other projects taken into consideration, the company's plans are clear: to turn its spin-off of Debian Linux, created in response to user disatisfaction with the slow release rate of that project, into a one-size-fits all operating system running on smartphones, tablets, PCs, servers, embedded devices and even smart TVs. If that sound familiar, it should: Apple has done much the same, sharing the core kernel of its operating system between its OS X desktop and iOS laptop OS, while Microsoft is busy attempting to consolidate all its various platforms - desktop, server, tablet, phone and games console - with a unified user experience.

If you're curious as to what Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth had to say about Ubuntu for Tablets, check out the announcement video below. If you're keen to get your hands on a unit, better think about buying a Nexus device to hack yourself: while Shuttleworth has confirmed a partnership with a major manufacturer, he has not yet provided a launch date for phones or tablets with Ubuntu pre-loaded.

14 Comments

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Burnout21 20th February 2013, 11:30 Quote
I thought a tablet was coming first in terms of development.

The phone images narrow the amount of developers able to physically test there apps, but the tablet images for the Nexus 7 and 10 widens the field as most people jumped to grab a Nexus 7.
blacko 20th February 2013, 11:35 Quote
Does this run from within Android or have they got some sort of hack which allows you to fully replace the android OS?
Gareth Halfacree 20th February 2013, 11:40 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by blacko
Does this run from within Android or have they got some sort of hack which allows you to fully replace the android OS?
It's a complete replacement OS, flashed as a ROM image - same as Ubuntu for Phones. There is something called Ubuntu for Android, which runs on top of Google's mobile OS, but that appears to have been abandoned in favour of Ubuntu for Phones.
loftie 20th February 2013, 12:32 Quote
Side stage, does Surface not support Snap? Either way, it looks good. I've liked Ubuntu on the PC as well, but my issues have always been that it doesn't support the games I play, and I break it way too easily while having no clue how to fix it.
If this takes off, more programs will become available for Ubuntu hopefully increasing it's appeal.
will_123 20th February 2013, 12:53 Quote
So its a complete replacement for android. But is it a full Ubuntu install? Or is it some kind of cut down version for tablets? I kind of like the idea of a little keyboard with my nexus 7 and ubuntu on it. But only if i had full control over it. Not wanting some cut down version. Wonder how other desktop environments would react to touch?
Icy EyeG 20th February 2013, 13:51 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by will_123
So its a complete replacement for android. But is it a full Ubuntu install? Or is it some kind of cut down version for tablets? I kind of like the idea of a little keyboard with my nexus 7 and ubuntu on it. But only if i had full control over it. Not wanting some cut down version. Wonder how other desktop environments would react to touch?

Tomorrow Canonical will be releasing the first images, so let's wait to see how it behaves on Nexus 7.
PCBuilderSven 20th February 2013, 16:01 Quote
Are there any plans to release x86 images for Windows based tablets?
jrs77 20th February 2013, 19:35 Quote
Here's a link to Ubuntus tablet page -> http://www.ubuntu.com/devices/tablet

The mockup they show on their page actually looks quiet nice with those wide speaker-grills on either side of the screen and I also like that they placed the front-facing camera on the long side. It's more natural imho and I'd like my iPad3 to have it there aswell, as I only use it in fixed landscape-mode.

The pictures don't show any ports tho, but I'd very much like to see it have a SD-card slot. That's what's missing in most smartphones and tablets. Is there actually any tablet with SD-card slot out there?
Nexxo 20th February 2013, 19:58 Quote
Actually, that's a Nexus 10. :) Ubuntu does not make its own hardware.

The Microsoft Surface has an SD card slot.
jrs77 20th February 2013, 21:35 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nexxo
Actually, that's a Nexus 10. :) Ubuntu does not make its own hardware.

The Microsoft Surface has an SD card slot.

Funny thing that the Surface has one. 64GB microSDHC cards aren't that expensive actually :)
Aracos 21st February 2013, 01:00 Quote
Think is I already have the desktop version on my tablet o_O
Blackshark 21st February 2013, 10:55 Quote
Well you have to say, its consistent! unlike WIndows 8. I dont think I will ever learn what the top, bottom, left and right edges do in Win 8 in all the different apps, desktop, metro.....

Well done Ubuntu
impar 21st February 2013, 12:31 Quote
Nexxo 21st February 2013, 18:45 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blackshark
Well you have to say, its consistent! unlike WIndows 8. I dont think I will ever learn what the top, bottom, left and right edges do in Win 8 in all the different apps, desktop, metro.....

Well done Ubuntu

Actually, it's exactly the same. The edge swipes are just distributed differently. Same context sensitivity; same functions.

Like the look though --a sort of cross between Metro and WebOS. Very polished.
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