Ubuntu 11.10

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.

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4 replies on “Ubuntu Linux heading to tablets, smartphones”

  1. What about Joilicloud? Is that viable on anything other than a laptop without a touch screen?

  2. Unless there is some clarification, like “Ubuntu is now going to be built around EFL and the rest of Enlightenment”, this is an idiotic announcement from a Linux brand that has become a Unix eunuch (sorry, that was a stretch). Some of us have been running e17 (back when it was more properly called dr17) for years on devices ranging from an HP hx4700 up to 12.1 inch tablet PCs. It’s nice to see that Ubuntu wants to invent the past.

    If Ubuntu really wants to get a single graphical interface for Linux on devices of all different sizes, form factors, and usage scenarios, then it should get behind some of these pre-existing efforts and contribute rather than try to reinvent the wheel.  I am actually all in favor of COMPETING projects in Linux like different web browsers and different desktop environments, but it appears as though Ubuntu has nothing to actually contribute beyond an interest in asserting its brand everywhere.  If that‘s the case, then it should just contribute development rather than compete against it.

    “Tablet” targeted projects like Boshi Linux on ARM, which aspires to be a truly free Android alternative, and SHR Project, which is a FSO compliant distribution of Linux for phones, have already embraced Enlightenment.  It’s also a supported project of Samsung and a foundation of SLP, which you all know as Tizen (in fact, most people seem to believe that MeeGo died and Tizen rose from its ashes, but the reality is that Samsung’s in-house Android-alternative SLP basically emerged to the public under the label “Tizen” and sought to pull away all of MeeGo’s developers as it builds momentum and MeeGo loses it).

    This announcement is just one more “Me too” from Ubuntu, the name of which I’m told is a reference to a philosophy of “humanity towards others” but seems to more literally translate to “can’t Install Debian”.

  3. Interesting article. So Ubuntu is pursuing a similar strategy as Microsoft, trying to put 1 OS on a wide variety of devices.

  4. Ubuntu is truly versatile. Won’t be surprised to see it on my toaster & Robot!

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