Ubuntu latest Linux to come to smartphones
Canonical plans to extend its latest distribution, and its Unity user interface, to tablets, handsets and TVs
Published: 31 October, 2011
Any hopes that the number of operating systems running on smartphones might coalesce around the big three (or even the big two) are growing fainter. The need to support new web-oriented user experiences, and for vendors to keep Google's power under control, are boosting a growing number of projects to bring new or reworked OSs to phones, tablets and smart TVs. The latest is the major PC Linux distribution, Ubuntu, while a Chinese firm has shown Windows 8 running on a handset.
Just weeks after a mobile version of the popular KDE Linux desktop was touted as an alternative to Android, Ubuntu author Canonical is also aiming to take on the might of Google. Founder Mark Shuttleworth is to announce the plan at the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Florida. Once the latest iteration, Ubuntu 12.04, is stable on desktops, it will be expanded to other devices, along with the new Unity user interface, which is based on the Gnome desktop.
Shuttleworth told ZDnet: "This is a natural expansion of our idea as Ubuntu as Linux for human beings. As people have moved from desktop to new form factors for computing, it's important for us to reach out to community on these platforms. So, we'll embrace the challenge of how to use Ubuntu on smartphones, tablets and smart-screens."
He said Canonical has been "talking to partners for 18 months" about bringing Ubuntu to smartphones and tablets. We want a consistent platform with a tightly structured user experience."
However, the project will not be turning into commercial products for perhaps two years, since it is not yet even at the alpha code stage - but it does point towards the future trend to create a unified user experience across all device types and screen sizes, as Microsoft aims to do with Windows 8's Metro UI.
Microsoft, however, has not indicated any plans to bring Metro to small-screen handsets, looking set to keep WP7 for that sector while extending W8 into tablets. However, China's In Technology Group has leapt ahead of the maestro by developing a W8 handset which it dubs a 'post-smartphone'. ITG, already a vendor of phones running XP and Windows 7, says its planned XPPhone 2 will not only run full-blown Windows 8 but will be far lighter and more energy efficient than its predecessors. It will run on a 1.6GHz processor with 2Gbytes of Ram and the firm even hints at a future 2GHz version.
ITG claims the XPPhone 2 will be more than a handset, despite its appearance, but will really function as a PC replacement, or the "smallest notebook PC in the world", with a docking station for the desktop or car.