bit-tech.net

Canonical announces Ubuntu for Phones

Canonical announces Ubuntu for Phones

Canonical's Ubuntu for Phones project looks to compete with Google's Android, offering desktop-like power in a pocket-sized form factor.

Canonical, the company founded by Mark Shuttleworth and most famous for its open source Ubuntu Linux distribution, has announced that it intends to launch a version of its operating system aimed at smartphones.

Unveiled at an event in London last night, Ubuntu for Phones builds on work carried out by advertising giant Google adapting the Linux kernel for use on smartphones and tablets under its Android platform but adapts the Android driver layer for use with a different operating system - in this case, Ubuntu. The result, Canonical claimed at the event, is a fast, friendly operating system which can unlock the true potential of today's multi-core smartphone devices.

Part of the problem of modern smartphones, Canonical said, is the overhead inherent in most smartphone operating systems. Android, as a perfect example, relies heavily on a Java virtual machine (VM) for executing its applications - allowing for easy cross-device compatibility, but sacrificing performance to do so. Ubuntu for Phones, as Canonical's latest endeavour is entitled, is different: code runs natively on the ARM-architecture processor with no virtual machine getting in the way, while developers have the option of creating either high-speed native applications or HTML5 applications using a soon-to-be-released software development kit.

Canonical's use of its existing Ubuntu Linux distribution for the basis of Ubuntu for Phones has another advantage: according to Canonical, apps developed for Ubuntu for Phones will be able to run just fine on an Ubuntu desktop or laptop machine. As a result, developers can create a single app for cross-device use, and sell - or give away - said app through the company's integrated Ubuntu Software Centre.

Not that Ubuntu for Phones is just a port of the desktop-centric Ubuntu operating system and its icon-heavy Unity interface, however: while the Unity launch bar is present and correct, viewed using a side-swipe from the left-hand edge of the smartphone's screen, the company appears to have put significant effort into retooling its user interface for a small-screen touch-enabled device. Gesture support is enabled, with no requirement for phones to have any hardware buttons at all, while true multi-tasking and easy 'flinging' between applications is included in the initial feature set.

Perhaps most impressive is Canonical's promise that Ubuntu for Phones is, at its heart, a full implementation of Ubuntu. Connecting a keyboard, mouse and external display to a compatible smartphone, the company claims, will provide a desktop-like computing experience - potentially allowing users to carry just a single device with them that can cover all their computing needs.

That's something others in the industry will need to be convinced on, however - despite moderate success for companies offering similar gadgets, such as the Asus Padfone, and the growing number of convertible tablet/laptop devices on the market since the launch of Windows 8. Speaking to Custom PC late last year, Intel Fellow Jim Held warned of the difficulties in replacing the desktop with an ultra-portable all-in-one computing system like a smartphone: 'Expecting one form factor to be as good for all things as another form factor, I think, is challenging. A very small form factor is going to have thermal limits, and space limits, that are going to limit its performance,' Held explained.

'Everything turning into a cellphone, in terms of form factor, means leading to compromises that we really don't have to make. Why would you need to limit the capacity for storage, the compute, because of thermal and space limits, in order to do that? it's unnecessarily limiting, giving that you use a smartphone for certain kinds of activity, for viewing things, for communication, why would you want to make it also for creating content, editing videos - which is very demanding of performance - or limit your video editing capabilities to what could be fit into that form factor? I really don't see the need go quite that far.'

Canonical will clearly have to work hard to convince the industry to adopt its software, and it will have to do so while fighting against three of the biggest companies in the software world: Apple, which has much of the top-end of the smartphone market tied up with its iOS platform; Google, which shares the top-end with Apple and enjoys a big chunk of the budget and mid-range market to boot with Android; and Microsoft, which is gaining ground on rivals with successive releases of its Windows Phone platform.

Android, in particular, will be Ubuntu for Phones' biggest problem: building on the established and open-source Android driver layer, Ubuntu for Phones offers claimed compatibility with any smartphone currently running Google's mobile platform - meaning it's a direct competitor, something Google on which will be keeping a close eye. For now, however, it looks like Google won't have to worry unduly: Canonical's Ubuntu for Android project, announced last year, gained little traction in the market.

Thus far, Canonical hasn't released the Ubuntu for Phones software, promising to do so in the near future with both an installable image compatible with the Samsung-manufactured Galaxy Nexus smartphone and source code for developers to port to other devices. What the company has not yet announced, tellingly, is a partnership with a handset maker to get a device with Ubuntu pre-loaded into the market - although it claims to be investigating routes to this goal with a view to launching its first device by the end of the year.

More details are available on the Ubuntu website, or you can spend the next twenty-odd minutes listening to Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth sell the idea to you in the below video.

35 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
mi1ez 3rd January 2013, 12:04 Quote
That's pretty sweet. Wouldn't mind giving it a go at some point.

All we need now is Steam for ARM!
jrs77 3rd January 2013, 12:07 Quote
More competition is never a bad thing, and I certainly like Ubuntu.

I'd buy a smartphone with Ubuntu right now instead of Android, iOS or WP8. Especially if it is able to run any software currently running on Ubuntu 12.04. It would finally do away with compatibility-issues alltogether.
fdbh96 3rd January 2013, 12:16 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrs77
More competition is never a bad thing, and I certainly like Ubuntu.

I'd buy a smartphone with Ubuntu right now instead of Android, iOS or WP8. Especially if it is able to run any software currently running on Ubuntu 12.04. It would finally do away with compatibility-issues alltogether.

I doubt it will be able to do that, as all those programs are designed for x86 computers.

However, when they release a tablet with it, it would be very cool to dock it to my main pc.
Gareth Halfacree 3rd January 2013, 12:25 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by fdbh96
I doubt it will be able to do that, as all those programs are designed for x86 computers.

Most software available in the Ubuntu x86 repository is also available in the Ubuntu ARM repository: LibreOffice, Firefox, Chromium, The Gimp - these are all available when running Ubuntu (or Debian) on an ARM architecture processor. That's the beauty of the open-source world: nobody has to wait for a software company to decide it's worth porting a package, you can just compile it yourself - and then make the binaries available for those who aren't as technically-minded.
blacko 3rd January 2013, 12:57 Quote
if its a true implementation and all i need to do is plug a mini HDMI cable and a wireless keyboard and mouse into my phone and it transforms into Ubuntu desktop then were do i sign up?

We are currently looking at bring your own devices to work and tbh perfectly honest this could fit the bill, especially if the company is offering you money to buy a device. It also means i wont have to lug around a laptop when im cycling into work.

and then theirs the whole gaming at work issue...
jrs77 3rd January 2013, 13:14 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by fdbh96
I doubt it will be able to do that, as all those programs are designed for x86 computers.

However, when they release a tablet with it, it would be very cool to dock it to my main pc.

It's atleast what Canonical has said it would be ;)

Taken from the Ubuntu-website...
Quote:
Write apps for all Ubuntu devices

Ubuntu Software Centre has been a part of Ubuntu for years, and we’ll extend it to deliver phone apps too.

Already established as the most popular way to find new software on the Ubuntu desktop, it enables Ubuntu users to download and install applications in seconds. And here’s the really amazing thing. With the arrival of the Ubuntu SDK, apps can be written to work on all Ubuntu form-factors: it’s the same Ubuntu OS on the desktop and on the phone, so a single native application can work on both. Which means you re-use most of the app when you add support for a new form-factor.

As I do play less and less games, and only use my PC for multimedia and work, I could do totally without Windows these days, if it wouldn't be for Adobe CS :/
Anfield 3rd January 2013, 15:05 Quote
Acer looking into alternatives to android for mobiles, then the rumours about Samsung finally bringing out some Tizen devices, the return of Blackberry, now Ubuntu, good to see the competition heating up.
AmEv 3rd January 2013, 16:32 Quote
Just don't have any assembler in your code. That stuff is arch/platform specific.



Once source comes out, I may just put it on my Pre+ (1GHz OC, baby!)
Snips 3rd January 2013, 19:48 Quote
Wow, what a complete waste of time
Burnout21 3rd January 2013, 20:11 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snips
Wow, what a complete waste of time

how is it a waste of time?

At least this phone OS is opensource unlike android, and it's the first option that will allow you to dock your phone and use it as a low power computer so at enterprise level this is genius.

Most sales reps require a laptop and a smart phone because everyone else has a smart phone. So they carry around a £500 laptop and a £350-400 smart phone (usually an iphone) and expect upgrades when something new comes to market. This caused me to pull my hair out considering all they need is VPN access to open spreadsheets, or create the odd word doc.

So a ubuntu phone, rolls it all into one solution much like how motorola tried with the atrix and the laptop dock.

Also the ability to run proper applications or open any file format without having to tweak and root the device.
Snips 3rd January 2013, 21:18 Quote
I refer you to my previous statement as nothing here suggests anything other than a complete waste of time.
Harlequin 3rd January 2013, 21:26 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snips
I refer you to my previous statement as nothing here suggests anything other than a complete waste of time.

please enjoy stroking your iphone , whilst the rest of the planet moves on....
fdbh96 3rd January 2013, 21:28 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
Most software available in the Ubuntu x86 repository is also available in the Ubuntu ARM repository: LibreOffice, Firefox, Chromium, The Gimp - these are all available when running Ubuntu (or Debian) on an ARM architecture processor. That's the beauty of the open-source world: nobody has to wait for a software company to decide it's worth porting a package, you can just compile it yourself - and then make the binaries available for those who aren't as technically-minded.

Ahh thats quite cool, I didn't realise it was that easy :D
impar 3rd January 2013, 21:29 Quote
Greetings!
Quote:
Hands-on with Ubuntu's brand-new, gesture-based phone OS

http://www.theverge.com/2013/1/2/3828266/ubuntu-phone-os-hands-on
Sloth 3rd January 2013, 21:38 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snips
I refer you to my previous statement as nothing here suggests anything other than a complete waste of time.

Improved performance through native ARM code for applications (and by extension, improved battery life), compatibility of applications between phone and PC, and full-fledged docking capabilities.

All things Gareth has kindly laid out in the article. Burnout21 has also explained how those improved docking capabilities are highly beneficial for enterprise users.
AmEv 3rd January 2013, 22:02 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sloth
Improved performance through native ARM code for applications (and by extension, improved battery life)

This. The defining feature about Android is also its drawback: the Davlik VM.

It uses a form of Java optimized for mobile devices. Thus, if you compile an Android app, it's guaranteed to work on any platform (tablet/phone/laptop, ARM/x86).
Alas, Java, like Flash, isn't fully-compiled code; one can (almost) easily decompile an APK/JAR.
(Conspiracy theory: This is why Flash on Android sucks: Interpretive compiler in an interpretive compiler = LAGGGG)

Now, native code: This is where iOS and Ubuphone rock. No Java lag, thus, no system lag.
Anfield 3rd January 2013, 22:58 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snips
Wow, what a complete waste of time

Even if Ubuntu for smartphones should fail to take over the world, the increased competition should at least scare apple, google and microsoft into improving their mobile operating systems, so even if nothing should come out of ubuntu it could still serve a purpose.

Plus the blurring of the lines between phones / tablets / laptops / desktops is inevitable, its not a question of if, but when.
Look at what is happening in the hardware world:
Galaxy Note: crossover from phone and tablet.
Lenovo Yoga and similar: Cross over between tablet and laptop.
iMac and other all in one desktops:cross over between laptop and desktop (lets face it, they are just laptops with no hinges for the screen).

But with software we still have the old segregation, why would that not change and why could Ubuntu not be one (of hopefully moire to come) operating systems to do end that segregation?
Tichinde 4th January 2013, 01:02 Quote
I'd love Ubuntu on my tablet (an old Hansspad)

But that's likely down to the ICS build I have being a tad flakey :D
Shielder 4th January 2013, 08:37 Quote
If it gets rid of the stupid Android "Insufficient storage available" error, then I'm all for it!

I do find it strange that all of the IT review sites rave about the latest Android phones, but no-one has investigated Google's stupidity in having a 400MB system partition where most of the apps are stored (or data for the apps anyway), so, despite my Galaxy Note having 11GB of space free, I get this stupid error!

I've had to delete nearly 20 apps, just so that I can update my more frequently used apps.

C'mon Bit-tech, do an investigation!

Andy
tonyd223 4th January 2013, 09:22 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shielder
If it gets rid of the stupid Android "Insufficient storage available" error, then I'm all for it!

I do find it strange that all of the IT review sites rave about the latest Android phones, but no-one has investigated Google's stupidity in having a 400MB system partition where most of the apps are stored (or data for the apps anyway), so, despite my Galaxy Note having 11GB of space free, I get this stupid error!

I've had to delete nearly 20 apps, just so that I can update my more frequently used apps.

C'mon Bit-tech, do an investigation!

Andy

When you deleted those 20 apps, were they apps that you were using anyway? I've about 72 apps loaded on my Note and I regularly do the reality check thing and delete...
Anfield 4th January 2013, 12:05 Quote
move apps to sd...
Shielder 4th January 2013, 12:19 Quote
But why should I have to delete my apps? You don't have to with Windows Phone OS, nor iOS, so why Android?

And, yes, I did use some of those apps I had to delete, just not frequently enough to justify keeping them.

The phone is also advertised as having 16GB of memory, why should I have to download an app (another one) or root my phone, just to move apps to an SD card, especially when the phone is reporting that I've got GBs of storage available????

As a consumer, I shouldn't have to hack my phone or do anything special, just so I can keep some of my less often used apps.

Andy
Snips 4th January 2013, 13:24 Quote
Who says I have an iPhone?
Anfield 4th January 2013, 13:38 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shielder

As a consumer, I shouldn't have to hack my phone or do anything special, just so I can keep some of my less often used apps.

Should you have to? No, but I think it beats the alternatives available.
aramil 4th January 2013, 15:12 Quote
Quote:
why should I have to download an app (another one) or root my phone, just to move apps to an SD card,

As a consumer, I shouldn't have to hack my phone or do anything special, just so I can keep some of my less often used apps.


Andy

Why hack?

On my galaxy sii it is already a standard option.

Settings-manage apps-(then select app)-click move to SD.
http://img.tapatalk.com/d/13/01/04/ahamygaq.jpg

Sent on my CM10 JB powered i9100 by TapaTalk 2
steveo_mcg 4th January 2013, 15:21 Quote
Aye, app to sd is just another app which lists the apps which can be moved to the sd card. Its not a hack just a quick way of accessing a function.

The function in itself is a response to the hassle that comes with being able to mount the device as a memory stick rather than have to use a special program (itunes) to load data to the device.
theshadow2001 4th January 2013, 17:47 Quote
I would trust canonical more with my personal data than I would Google or apple. In fact I trust Google with my personal data about the same as I trust a priest in the middle of a playground. I would like to see the ubuntu phone come to fruitition but I have my doubts whether that will happen or not. Its difficult to stick to open source principles and bring a product to market at the same time.
Snips 4th January 2013, 19:45 Quote
Remember how popular Linux Netbooks were before they had XP added to them?

This will just go the same way, a few die hard Linux fans aside, that minority will not make this a success.
theshadow2001 9th January 2013, 11:17 Quote
http://www.geek.com/articles/mobile/hands-on-with-ubuntu-for-smartphones-2013018/

Hands on

?v=RO7QbCqFY7Y&

I think it looks good and if its more responsive than android that would be fantastic as well. I like the docking idea too.
jrs77 9th January 2013, 11:36 Quote
I read a few hands-on reports from CES now and they all are amazed by Ubuntu for phones.

I'd actually like to have Ubuntu instead of Android or iOS for my smartphone.
Gareth Halfacree 9th January 2013, 11:45 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snips
Remember how popular Linux Netbooks were before they had XP added to them? This will just go the same way, a few die hard Linux fans aside, that minority will not make this a success.
I agree with your conclusion, but not with the way you got there. The reason Linux on netbooks failed is because everybody saw a netbook as a small laptop, and expected to be able to do everything they could do on their full-size laptop - which includes running Windows apps like Microsoft Office, Outlook, Internet Explorer and so forth. When they found out they couldn't, they abandoned the devices in droves - until, as you say, Windows-based netbooks came out, at which point the devices became popular once again until tablets did them in.

The same isn't true of a phone: nobody who owns a smartphone expects to be able to run Microsoft Office. Instead of expecting a Windows-like experience, users will come to Ubuntu for Phones expecting an Android, iOS or Windows Phone experience - and that's exactly what they'll get, with the added bonus that they can plug in a keyboard, mouse and monitor and use it like a PC - which is where they may start complaining that they can't run The Sims, 'cos people are daft like that.

But I said I agreed with your conclusion, and here's how I got there: initially, Ubuntu for Phones will require that a user manually installs it on their handset - a process which isn't for the faint-hearted. Many handsets simply won't support it, as large swathes of Android devices come with a locked bootloader that won't allow a third-party firmware to be installed, so even when the community has ported the source code - initially only compatible with the Galaxy Nexus - it still won't work. On phones where it does work, you can kiss goodbye to your warranty.

The only way Ubuntu for Phones can succeed is if Canonical convinces a major manufacturer - Samsung would do nicely - to produce a range of smartphones with the software pre-loaded. With Android as popular as it is and enjoying a great ecosystem of third-party apps designed specifically for smartphones and tablets - something Ubuntu, which has an even larger ecosystem of apps but ones designed for use on large-screen desktops and laptops, can't match - that's going to be a hard sell.
theshadow2001 9th January 2013, 12:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree

The only way Ubuntu for Phones can succeed is if Canonical convinces a major manufacturer - Samsung would do nicely

Absolutely. This is key. But I can't imagine they didn't figure getting ubuntu phone pre-installed on an oem into the plan. I'm sure the plan wasn't lets make a phone os and see what happens. They probably needed to keep this a secret until now and up to this stage of development in order to create a bit of bang on announcement, to garner consumer interest which will hopefully get a manufacturer on board.

The reason for not going after OEMs sooner would be their under dog status and lateness to the market. They need something, working and tangible, something that can be shown to generate interest. A working and convincing prototype with interest and a bit of hype is a much easier sell than a pie in the sky idea. They don't have the money of google, or the ubiquitous brand name of microsoft/windows to help them break into the industry.

I would prefer an ubuntu phone I think, since I'm not really an apps kind of person anyway the size of an app market has very little bearing on my decision.
jrs77 9th January 2013, 12:58 Quote
Yeah. I also think that they allready have contacts to OEMs and simply waited until now to unveil their product.

Seeing how well Ubuntu runs in all these videos and reading about all the positive feedback people gave after they got their hands on it makes this a very interesting product. Especially when you think about, that the OEMs can very easily modify the code to suit their needs.
It's a far more open source then Android will ever be and it has the advantage of not using a bloody VM eating up ressources like mad.
impar 9th January 2013, 20:52 Quote
Greetings!

Even Mozilla has agreements with a manufacturer for its mobile OS.
Anfield 15th January 2013, 21:33 Quote
another interesting oprion, dual booting android and ubuntu,

http://www.engadget.com/2013/01/15/exynos-kite-tablet-android-ubuntu/
Log in

You are not logged in, please login with your forum account below. If you don't already have an account please register to start contributing.



Discuss in the forums