Ubuntu maker Canonical is getting into the smartphone business in a big way. The company has announced it’s developing a version of its popular Linux-based operating system designed to run on smartphones, with the first Ubuntu Phone OS handsets scheduled to hit the streets in 2014.
Meanwhile, this year the company plans to partner with Android smartphone makers to ship the first devices featuring “Ubuntu on Android,” a solution that lets you dock your Android phone to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse to use your phone as a full-fledged desktop computer. When you’re away from your desk, you can use your phone as a normal Android handset.
Canonical first introduced Ubuntu for Android in 2013, but it looks like the software should finally be ready to go this year.
But it’s starting to sound like a bit of a stop-gap measure until Ubuntu Phone OS is ready to go next year. The company also plans to make software available for download before then, which The Verge says you’ll be able to install on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, one of the most developer-friendly phones on the market right now.
Those phones won’t be able to run Android apps at all, and instead will run software developed for Ubuntu Phone OS. On higher-end phones, you’ll also be able to dock your Ubuntu phones and connect a display and keyboard to run desktop-style apps, but on the go you’ll run mobile apps developed specifically for the new mobile version of Ubuntu.
Information for app developers is already available at developer.ubuntu.com, and the OS will support apps written in native code as well as web or HTML5 apps.
The user interface will incorporate edge gestures, a global search function, and support for voice and text commands. Some of the ideas look pretty interesting — for instance, instead of a “lock screen,” there’s a “welcome screen” which shows notifications and other data as soon as you turn on the device. But you can launch apps from that screen by swiping from the edge of the screen to bring up shortcuts.
You can start to get a look at how Ubuntu Phone OS looks at around the 7 minute mark in the long video below, or just scroll down to the shorter “trailer” video.