When Samsung launched the Galaxy S8 smartphone earlier this year, the company also introduced a new system that allows you to connect your phone to an external display, mouse, and keyboard and use your phone like a desktop.

Up until now that’s meant when you use the Samsung DeX docking station you can run Android apps in a desktop-like environment. But soon you’ll be able to run a full-fledged Linux operating system.

Samsung says it’s developing an app called Linux on Galaxy that will let you load a DeX-compatible Linux environment. In other words, your Android phone could also be your GNU/Linux desktop PC.

Developers have been finding ways to load Linux distributions on Android phones for years. But Linux on Galaxy is different in a few ways.

First, it’s an experience that’s built and supported by the company that makes the phone. Second, it’s designed to work with a DeX station, which means it’s optimized for desktop usage. And third, today’s top phones have processors powerful enough to run Windows 10, so they should be able to handle desktop operating systems like Ubuntu, Debian, and Fedora.

Linux on Galaxy is described as a work-in-progress and Samsung isn’t providing a lot of details about how it will work, what kind of Linux distributions or applications it will support, or when it will be available. But you can sign up to get more information when it’s available.

The Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, and Galaxy Note 8 should be supported.

In some ways, this reminds me of another (failed) attempt to combine Android and a Linux-based, desktop-like environment. In 2011 Motorola introduced the Atrix 4G smartphone and an optional laptop docking station. When you connected the Android phone to the dock you could run a desktop version of the Firefox web browser… thanks to a customized Linux environment. At the time Android wasn’t particularly laptop-friendly, so Motorola developed this odd workaround.

It didn’t really catch on and the product category was eventually scrapped… although we’ve seen renewed interest in the idea of laptop docks for phones in recent years.

Meanwhile, while Samsung is working on bringing Linux to its Android phones, the folks at Linux laptop maker Librem are working on a phone that runs a GNU/Linux-based operating system called PureOS. It’ll also be a phone that you can use as a desktop. The difference is that it’ll only have a single operating system that you can use in both modes.



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11 replies on “Samsung’s latest Android phones can also be Linux desktops”

  1. Adding Linux support to the DeX module is certainly interesting for developers and other fans of the Linux environment, but it won’t lead to millions of Samsung phone owners switching from Windows to Linux.

    As more and more mobile phones become fast enough to run desktop systems, there is certainly room for DeX-like docking station solutions to straddle the two worlds, but the non-Windows based solution is unlikely to be full-blown Linux client, but rather something more akin to a more seamless Android desktop environment or a Chrome OS/Android hybrid.

    1. It may influence linux fans to buy the phone with more internal flash. Not a lot of money but maybe enough to pay for the app.

  2. My guess (hope) is that in the next few years Google will expand Chrome OS to host some kind of ‘Nix system in the same way it does Android. I imagine it will be container system, Docker or the like. Technology very familiar to Google and one which would make Chrome OS extremely powerful while allowing it to maintain its strong security and fleet manageability.
    I don’t even think you’ll really have access to the underlying environment. Just the containers. Again much like the Android fusion they have underway.

    1. For Chromebooks, you have a few options. There’s Crouton for a full fledged Linux environment, but that requires dev mode. There’s a couple of options from the Android side of things. Termux and GnuRoot both provide a full-featured shell with apt and packages, but are contained within Chrome OS’s sandboxes for Android apps. Both are free downloads from the Play store if you have a Chromebook or Android device and want to play with them.

  3. Please tell me they will allow a full fledged nix environment. Not a gimp version similar to Windows Metro. Would be nice to run a full Ubuntu.

  4. Honestly, I had hoped Windows phones would have had the converged experience by now with a full Windows desktop. Too bad MS couldn’t make a comeback in the smartphone market and killed off their efforts. I would have bought into it.

    1. I think the only way Microsoft can get back into the phone business is when phones can run full desktop Windows. Processors are nearly there now and with the advent of folding screen phones, it could be just around the corner. I think Microsoft learned (I hope) that anything other than full Windows that is able to run ALL Windows apps is doomed to failure.

  5. The day Samasung officially starts supporting a full blown Linux desktop with the Dex, I am ordering the Galaxy S8+.

  6. Samsung has been trying to make Android-based computers for many years now. Android however is difficult to scale into powerful, multi-tasking computing. Linux could be better.
    Personally my Samsung Galaxy Note Tab Pro tablets need more power & capabilities than Android.

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