Microsoft recently announced that upcoming Windows Phone devices would be able to operate like desktop computers when you connect an external display, mouse and keyboard. That doesn’t just mean that you can run smartphone apps blown up for a big screen: you’ll be able to use Universal Windows apps which will change their look and feel for large screens and the operating system will look different on TVs too.

But Microsoft wasn’t the first company with this idea: Canonical’s been working on bringing similar features to Ubuntu for years. A few years ago the company tried to raise $32 million through crowdfunding to build an Ubuntu smartphone that could work as a desktop… but the company didn’t meet its goals.

Now Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth says someone else is building one, and it’s set to launch in 2015.

ubuntu convergence

Canonical’s Unity desktop environment for Ubuntu can already run across a range of devices with different screen sizes. That includes smartphones, tablets, notebooks, and TVs.

Apps that support “convergence” can run those different platforms while looking and behaving differently on each type of device. For instance an app could have a single-pane, full-screen view for smartphones. But the same app could have a multi-column layout on tablets and desktop and when you use the app on a desktop or notebook you’ll be able to run it in a window that can be resized and re-positioned.

That comes in handy if you want to create a single app that can be used on smartphones or desktop PCs. But it’s even cooler if you can buy a smartphone that becomes a desktop when you connect it to a mouse, keyboard, and external display.

Shuttleworth says Canonical is working with an unnamed smartphone manufacturer to release a phone that can do just that. It’s not entirely clear what kind of hardware to expect. We don’t know who’s building the phone, how much it will cost, or how it will connect to accessories: it’s possible there could be a docking station accessory, or support for wireless display, mouse, and keyboard connections.

Without talking about the specs for the upcoming phone, Shuttleworth says it won’t be as powerful as a high-end PC workstation, but it should provide a good enough experience for some day-to-day computing tasks.

But it looks like Canonical and Microsoft will be racing to see which company can bring their converged smartphone/desktop experience to potential users first.

Keep in mind that neither company is promising that you’ll be able to run every desktop app on your phone. But you’ll definitely be able to run some apps that are designed for Microsoft’s Universal Apps platform or Ubuntu’s converged desktop experience.

As far as Ubuntu is concerned, right now that mostly includes apps designed specifically for the Unity desktop environment. But Shuttleworth is asking developers of apps for GNOME, KDE, and other desktop environments to consider adding convergence features to their software as well.

Oh yeah, in related news Ubuntu 15.10 is due out in October, and Shuttleworth announced the code-name for the upcoming release: Wily Werewolf.

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41 replies on “Ubuntu phone that works as a desktop PC coming in 2015”

  1. I’m not sure I fully understand what’s going on here, perhaps someone could elaborate for me? In my opinion, desktop and mobile computing should remain separate. As far as I’m concerned, desktops are for spreadsheets and databases, and phones are for calls and texts. I don’t understand why you would use a phone as a desktop, to me that just sounds confusing. If I want to transfer files conveniently, I carry around a usb drive with me, albeit it could get lost, stolen or damaged, but I’d rather have my files on me than somewhere within the cloud, I think it’s safer that way. I don’t think phones will completely replace desktops anytime soon.

    And while we’re discussing Windows and Ubuntu, I have reserved an upgrade to Windows 10, for testing purposes. I believe in open source software, and I support the GNU project. I may end up switching to Linux at some point. The things I would do to Windows if I had a licence to modify it… >:)

  2. I could be tempted if the hardware is good and the case design doesn’t look like some home baked crud.
    Needs enough connectivity and storage options to be a proper phone computer.

  3. “Shuttleworth says that Canonical is working with an unnamed smartphone manufacturer…”.
    “Without talking about specs, Shutleworth says…”

    Everyone involved is ALLways unnamed. Specs are NEVER talked about.

    Same old Shuttleworth bullsh**. That’s the ONLY thing Shuttleworth knows how to say.

    1. True, just like Kondik.

      I think Ubuntu and Cyanogen Inc should get together. They’re both the heavyweights of their open-source fields, and they both give the middle finger to the community that helped build them.

      Canonical + Cyanogen Inc = Cyanonical Inc
      Ubuntu + Cyanogen OS = Ubunogen OS


  4. Microsofts Convergence is a Joke in my eyes. If i would ever even concider a Windows Phone, it would need to do the “Desktop via Monitor / Keyboard / Mouse” thing, but if “Desktop” doesn’t include legacy win32, it’s not a desktop at all to me, So unless the “Convergence Lumia” is also an “x86 Win32 Lumia” it’s not even worth looking at.

    For that very reason i think Ubuntu Continuum is the far better bet, since most stuff you want to run on Linux Desktops is Open Source, which means it can be modified and more importantly recompiled for ARM, so to make a Linux phone turn into a FULL FLEDGED linux desktop will be far easier and more realistic goal to achive then making a Windows phone into a FULL FLEDGED windows desktop

    1. Any Win32 app can be made a Universal App with minimal tweakings. And Win32 apps would be sold in the store as well. You have to do more research on this it seems.

      1. Yeah, Prime.
        The Apps for Continuum requires some tweaking and porting to Windows 10’s new framework. That doesn’t mean they can’t work, it just means they need abit/alot adjustments.

        Ubuntu Apps are in the same situation.
        Actually they are worse.
        Apps will need to be converted from x86 to ARM and this is an arduous task, and Canonical seems to offer no help or remedy unlike Microsoft.

        1. But on Windows only the apps original developer has the chance to make those adjustments to then submit the new version to the windows store to be downloaded onto a Windows Phone.

          Due to the availablity of sourcecode for the majority of Linux Programs in most cases users with enough knowledge can make those adjustments themselves and don’t have to pray for comerical viability before there could even be the remote chance of ever hoping for it to come to their Platform of choice.

          1. True.
            But that doesn’t always apply for Linux Programs. And the original developer has a huge advantage in making changes to Programs compared to collaborating developers. And sometimes this leads to a really degraded experience within the OS and the Program. So to me, this omission isn’t a big setback since its detracts from the overall experience.

            Besides, Windows OS may not be open-source, however the applications for it can be, as long as the initial developers lays support on his website. In fact, there are plenty of collaborated programs on Windows itself too.

      2. I didn’t just say win32 but “LEGACY win32” for a reason. Following their OSes Philosophy most Linux Programs are distributed as, or at least with, Sourcecode – while most Windows programs are distributed as closed source binary blobs only.

        So while software for both platforms will need tweaking to run on Smartphones, the main difference is that on the Linux side given enough programing knowledge just about any user of the software would theoretically be able to make the necessary changes, for windows programs that is typcially not the case as sourcecode is typically not available to the public.

        Even in cases where the developer still supports its software and deems it viable to convert it into a universal app your “minimal tweakings” argument doesn’t hold water.

        While it is true that you can use “Project Centennial” to simple input a Windows installer and output a “Universal App”, the only thing that really accomplishes is that you can put that software on the Windows Store. It doesn’t mean it will just magically run on Smartphones or even XBOX which is far closer to a normal PC given the hardware.

        Even if you don’t have any architecture or platform specific code in your app, universal apps don’t have “full trust,” which means they can’t run as administrator with elevated privileges, can’t access the kernel, and can’t access some other system-level features. If you have an app that needs to do those things you can still use the converter and submit the app to the Windows Store — but it will only be able to run on the type of device it was originally designed for because it will still include some “full trust” code.

        The main problem though remains LEGACY win32, Apps that are no longer actively developed or supported. If i want to run older windows games, i can’t, If i want to run older productivity software, i can’t, if i want to run proprietary software that has been written specifically for my company by a software vendor no longer in business, i simply can’t.

        And that is what i take issue with. On a Linux Smartphone that can turn into a Desktop, as a user, i can potentially get any Linux Desktop app i want to run to do so myself. On a Windows Phone that advertises it can do the same thing, i am dependant on the developer of the app to do that, and without major rewrites or loss of fuctionality it will either not run at all or at best be severely limited if it is not run on the same platform it was originally written for.

        In short:
        Any “Windows” that can’t run win32 Apps simply isn’t a viable Windows Desktop to me. If the only way to run win32 apps on a Continuum Smartphone, is to have the developer turn them into universal apps, submit those to the windows store and then only retain full functionality on the original target platform, the only reason to even REMOTELY deem such a Continuum Smartphone a viable Desktop would be if it was x86.

      3. lol you got befuddled by what Microsoft does want people to believe.
        But its not equal, for one thing, Universal Apps can’t have ‘trusted’ code, which prevents a whole lot of things from being possible.
        Its just going in the direction of the manufacturer taking control of your device and you can run what they see fit – under the guise of making things “more secure”.

        Microcruft has 2 major areas of interest:

        – Controlling your device
        – Charging 30% on every piece of software you even *can* install on your system.

        Once Windows App store has reached sufficient levels of popularity, they will start turning the thumbscrews and call it shareholder value.

        Given Microcruft’s current lack of success with that strategy, its a few years away, but these are the foundations for that and the efforts to make them look good, so enough people will swallow the bait.

        Don’t bite that worm…

  5. Average consumer would want windows.
    If Microsoft attracts alot more apps to equal android and ios I might actually switch

    1. I’m not too sure. Most people use mobile devices now because they can equally take pictures, check FB, make airline reservations, etc. Mobile devices now make up a big part of people’s computing tasks. The desktop/laptop PC is often being replaced.

      A device like this could be a huge leap in seeing the death of the traditional PC.

  6. Ubuntu “owns” my desktop (keyboard/mouse/monitor) and my fileserver. I don’t think they will ever own my phone. I think that they are wasting effort/money on mobile (tablets & phones)… when they could take more desktop and server share from microsoft. I really like my chromebox that runs ubuntu… runs steam and all the apps I like. They need their own branded box… not some cheesy tablet or phone.

    1. Well, I ran Ubuntu touch on my Nexus phone a few months ago and it was surprisingly usable. Not sure why you are calling it cheesy. It did all the smartphone things you would expect it to.

      1. That’s the point, we all switch back after trying it. Desktop and home server were different for me, even if Windows was free I still would not go back. Mature Linux apps and wine stability keep me happy.

    2. For a platform to stay alive, it needs developers. It’s hard enough
      to get developers to write your platform – now if your platform is
      divided into completely separate mobile/tablet/desktop platforms – ever
      more difficult. The future is convergence, MS sees it even before announcing their recent phone thing, they have been working for quite a while to converge Windows to one platform. If Ubuntu and Linux want to stay at all competitive they need to work on convergence as well.

      As an Android devotee and former daily Ubuntu driver, I was looking forward to the Ubuntu phone/pc combo. They are taking their time on it thought and every day delayed is a big opportunity for Windows to eat their lunch. MS seems like a new company under Nadella and if they really put their shoulders to the wheel on this, I could see a Windows phone as a pretty compelling prospect. Never imagined I would say that but phones are becoming incredibly powerful and the prospect of one device always in your pocket with everything on it – you have my attention.

      I mean come on. In 2-3 years you will see phones with 8 core 3GHz processors, 4-8GB of RAM, 4k screens and the graphics grunt to drive them, a 256GB SSD or mSD card, every radio and sensor you can imagine, 20MP cameras and 4k video . . . essentially on every spec they will be better than the very sweet ultrabook or desktop you are likely using now. Why would you keep pouring money into duplicating all that hardware on an expensive ultrabook and a tablet or two?

  7. I have a feeling that they will co-operate with Meizu, since they’re experimenting with Ubuntu phones since the MX3 days.

    1. Would like to see that happen since Meizu does a great job with hardware, but seems less and less likely with time and lack of news. I think the Ubuntu dalliance has ended and the romance with Jack Ma and Alibaba is in full bloom.

  8. Apple & Google dictate where technology is going, period.

    The only thing more embarrassing than watching Microsoft occasionally show us their “vision” of the future (which is never quite finished) is when some also-ran version of Linux comes out a few weeks later to show us their version as well (only to see it inevitably canceled in a couple years).

    Oh ya, it’s also pretty embarrassing to watch Firefox do the samething at an even LATER date.

    1. If you think Redmond is out of the game then you’re naive. As somebody else said – that horse always runs.
      As for Canonical, they have been working on and toward this idea for years. The only thing new about it is your hearing about it.

    2. sorry Linux who, the 1% that nobody is talking about now on this tech market, its embarrassing someone like you have no clue about the tech industry today. The world does not evolve around Apple and Google. Bare in mind Apple and Google is looking at MS so they can take a leaf out of the page of convergence, their vision has reached its heights and Linux ever dream to have the developers to make that happen for them. MS has been working on convergence for a long time way before Canonical through R&D interally and there are patents back in 2000s by MS on this technology. So your point is invalid. MS has more money than Google and the whole Linux branch foundation companies put together and even Cannonical, I dont think Cannonical has the capital to fund a R&D after their failed attempt with their $32 million through crowdfunding to build an Ubuntu smartphone that could work as a desktop… but the company didn’t meet its goals that was errm 2013, and nobody cared. Its so bad that worst croudfunding products beaten their goals lol. Do some reasearch before you make a fool of yourself. Its 2015 not the year 2007. The world is a different landscape of technology my friend.

      1. Simultaneously clueless and condescending, bravo my friend you’ve ground my intellect to a halt.

    3. Apple dictate where it’s going for Apple users, period. Otherwise your statement is an insult to the hard work by countless thousands of geeks, developers and engineers working at companies around the world.

      I’m not sure if I need a phone to plug into becoming a PC – I’d rather just have multiple devices. But it’s a neat idea that has its uses. And I’d rather that than something that has the functionality of a phone with the portability of a PC (i.e., what Apple’s “vision” was, which after years of hype is now collapsing in sales).

    4. “Apple & Google dictate where technology is going, period.”

      The exact opposite is usually true. At the current moment, Google and Apple are the mobile market leaders. But game changing innovation usually comes from the fringes, because those not in leadership positions will take greater risks to succeed, as they must. A case in point is when Microsoft was the mobile market leader and Apple moved from the fringe to overtake MS, then Android jumped from the fringe to overtake Apple.

      “Apple & Google are where technology is today” would be a more accurate statement, but still not completely true.

    5. Well said Mr Cook, while your company is not busy dictating the future would you mind to fix all the iOS 8 bugs .0, .1,.2 it has been a nightmare for people who has to support your devices and also if you can do something with the Apple watch battery life it will be great.
      Greetings from the past

    6. Love the Linux apologists, How well is consumer desktop Linux marketshare these days after decades of effort? How are those Linux smartphones doing?

      Fact is, Google has done more with Linux in desktop & mobile (ChromeOS & Android) in just a few years than anybody else ever has.

      This is just another failed project that will never get any marketshare & be cancelled in a couple years like everything else the community does.

      1. Follow your own statements, if Google is doing well in desktop and mobile *with Linux* then what is doing well with desktop and mobile?????? Linux?? Hello?

        Please circle one:


        Just stupid

    7. You know it’s a billion dollar industry, right? A billion dollar (much more actually, that’s just Redhat) linux industry. Also, Andriod is linux so what are you even talking about?

      Firefox is the best because it’s open-source, Chrome loses points for that issue.

  9. Convergence is where it’s at IMO. . . and if Linux really wanted to be a main OS player for “average users” they would have been looking at mobile-desktop convergence since the iPhone came out. The fact that it’s taken this long for them (Linux community as a whole) to start heading down this path demonstrates a key problem. . . .

    For developing countries the smartphone will be the ONLY device “average users” have as their “computing device” and the more capable the OS & apps the more likely the users will choose that platform over others. . . . and yet Linux has sat and watched. Since Linux has never gotten a footing in the desktop market I fail to see why they are even bothering with it any longer — smartphones are outselling desktops, it’s time to move on already and develop for what will be THE device of the future.

    1. It actually takes more than a week or two to make this stuff happen. Canonical has been working on this for several years. They don’t have the Billions to spend on it Microsoft has.
      The entire move to Unity desktop which pissed off so many Linux people was in consideration of the move to convergence. How long ago was that now? Quite a while.

    2. You do realise Android, by far the most popular mobile OS, uses Linux… (and they were working on it before the arbitrary “the Iphone came out” date).

      Okay, you probably mean GNU/Linux, but it’s not like “the Linux community” is some single group. There are lots of different distributions, supported by lots of different people, and it’s a big enough job making an operating system for PCs.

      The reason why it’s taken time for Ubuntu to get to mobile is because it’s a difficult job when you don’t have tonnes of money. Smartphones are a far harder job than PCs to gain entry to – at least with the latter, people can install Linux onto a PC of their choice; and the barriers of entry to making PCs isn’t that high. With smartphones, it’s an oligopoly and not easy to get a big company like Samsung just to start making phones for your OS.

      Smartphones outselling desktops/laptops doesn’t mean everyone is using the former and not the latter. It just means the market for phones is larger (not unsurprising: phones are more likely to be personal items where as PCs can be shared; phones are upgraded more often; phones are used in developing parts of the world where computers may be less common).

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