Ubuntu is already one of the world’s most popular Linux distributions for desktop and laptop computer users — and the operating system powers a fair share of servers as well. Now founder Mark Shuttleworth says the next step is to bring Ubuntu to phones and tablets.
You can already install Ubuntu on a tablet today — the OS can support touch input. But out of the box, the operating system isn’t designed to be quite as easy to use on a tablet as Android, iOS, or even the upcoming Windows 8 operating system.
We’ve also seen people hack their phones to run Ubuntu — but the operating system clearly wasn’t designed for use on a 4 inch screen. Menus, applications, and graphics just don’t scale well to the small screen.
Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, rolled out a new user interface called Unity recently, and it looks like it was designed for touchscreen displays, with nice big icons replacing many of the tiny toolbars of the past. But in an interview with ZDNet, Shuttleworth says the company isn’t just working to make the software ready for tablets and phones — Canonical has also been talking to partners about bringing the software to phones and tablets for a year and a half.
In other words, we could eventually see products shipping with Ubuntu — right now there are a handful of computers that ship with Ubuntu or other Linux software. But most consumers that want to run Ubuntu end up buying a computer first and then installing the operating system themselves.
We might not see an official version of Ubuntu designed for phones, tablets, and traditional personal computers until 2014. But I suspect we’ll continue to see people trying out early versions of the software on those devices over the next few years.