Today Canonical officially announced Ubuntu for phones http://www.ubuntu.com/devices/phone. Usually a new phone OS announcement is not much to get excited about, but Ubuntu’s entry has been anticipated for years. I am interested in this because Canonical’s Ubuntu is the most widely adopted and supported Linux distribution and they are promising a level of convergence never seen before. Eventually Ubuntu will be able to run the same OS on the server, desktop, tablets and phones. It is also promising good performance on lower end hardware.
Putting aside the difficulty Canonical will face in gaining significant market share with Ubuntu for phones I find a lot of things I initially like about their approach:
- Having the same Ubuntu run on several devices is interesting. Developers will be able to write apps for all devices running Ubuntu and have their apps discoverable in the Ubuntu Software Center just like desktops apps are found now.
- It is not clear whether Ubuntu for phones will support or eventually support this, but with it using the same OS across devices it would be cool to have a phone that when plugged into a monitor adjusts its UI for the larger screen. The possibility of having 1 computing device that works the same across your desktop, tablet and phone is something no other OS has achieved successfully yet. There is also an Ubuntu for Android that has demonstrated the capability to run full Ubuntu when the phone is docked to a monitor and keyboard.
- Canonical is claiming that Ubuntu for phones will run smoothly on relatively lower end hardware and it will run using drivers written for Android, making it easier for manufacturers to transition or develop hardware for both.
- Ubuntu is the most popular Linux distribution, but it’s a distant 3rd versus Windows and OSX for consumer desktops. Can the phone serve as a gateway to higher desktop market share and vice versa?
- The interface is interesting. It uses a swipe based menu system. It resembles Unity. Perhaps Ubuntu for phones was part of the decision behind using Unity?
As a developer I am excited to see Ubuntu for phones. The SDK is out now http://developer.ubuntu.com/get-started/gomobile/ I’m planning to try it out and am looking forward to learning more in the coming months. There will be more information about it at this year’s CES next week.