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Ubuntu outlines tablet plans and Tizen 2.0 is released

Two candidates to be the mainstream mobile OS for post-PC devices take steps towards commercial reality


Published: 20 February, 2013

READ MORE: OS | Tablet | Linux

The smartphone version of the big name in PC Linux, Ubuntu, will appear on Thursday as a developer preview on Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4 devices, a big step towards market reality. And the firm behind the OS, Canonical, has also outlined its plans for a tablet version.

The organization is aware that these post-PC devices are where its sweet spot will lie - as its PC base migrates to slates and ultrabooks, and because the OS lines are less rigidly drawn than in smartphones. Many users are discovering new usage patterns driven by tablets' combination of large touchscreens and portability, and in turn are looking for new user experiences, going beyond the stretched versions of Android and iOS.

Canonical said its new tablet interface is the "next step towards one unified family of experiences for personal computing on phones, tablets, PCs and TVs". Founder Mark Shuttleworth told journalists: "Multitasking productivity meets elegance and rigorous security in our tablet experience. Our family of interfaces now scales across all screens, so your phone can provide tablet, PC and TV experiences when you dock it. That's unique to Ubuntu and it's the future of personal computing." It also believes its presence on mobile gadgets will make it more attractive to desktop users too.

So the Ubuntu Unity interface seen in the developer preview will look the same on all devices, though Canonical admits it still has a way to go to achieve a fully universal platform under the top level UI.

The end user release of the mobile OS will be available in Ubuntu 13.10 in October and a fuller version will be out in Ubuntu 14.04 in April 2014. Shuttleworth also said that his organization had signed a deal with "a very large supplier of silicon to the mobile industry which will be optimizing Ubuntu on their chips." Further details of this deal will be announced at Mobile World Congress next week.

He also enlarged on the features which will differentiate mobile Ubuntu from the platforms of Google and Apple. These include unique 'side-stage' multitasking supporting phone and tablet apps on a single tablet screen at the same time. He also boasted of enterprise level security capabilities; multiple accounts on one tablet with full encryption for personal data; a voice controlled heads-up display; and the use of screen edges for navigation between apps, settings and controls, enabling sleeker hardware with no physical or soft buttons.

The Ubuntu tablet interface supports screen sizes from 6-inches to 20-inches and resolutions from 100ppi to 450ppi. The firm is also pushing an Ubuntu slate as a secure thin client which can be managed by the enterprise systems, and can be used to display Windows applications too.

Another HTML5-oriented mobile OS, Tizen, has released sourcecode and a software developers kit for its second generation. The update includes an enhanced web framework with many of the latest W3C/HTML5 APIs supported. Also added are a Web UI framework with full screen and multi-window support, and extra APIs for Bluetooth and NFC devices plus access to calendars, call history and messaging. Samsung, along with Intel the main backer of Tizen, has promised devices for the OS this year.

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