Owners of Nexus devices can now flash Ubuntu Touch Developer Preview onto their devices, as Canonical today made available the preview ROMs of Ubuntu's mobile version. While the preview doesn't run all of the expected features, you can still make phone calls, text messages, connect to the Internet over Wi-Fi, use both the front and rear cameras, and mess around on your phone on ADB (Android Developer Bridge).

The devices officially supported for the developer previews are the Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4, Nexus 7, and Nexus 10. You can check out an in-depth, step-by-step installation guide on the Ubuntu Wiki.

Alongside the developer preview, Canonical has also released the alpha version of the SDK for Ubuntu Touch. While the SDK has been in development for quite some time, the new features added in the latest version impressed the developers enough for it to warrant a release.

One of the biggest features of the SDK is remote app deployment, which lets you execute apps you create straight from the IDE. Applications developed with Qt Creator can now be transferred and executed to a device through a simple shortcut.

You can check out more information on the SDK on the Ubuntu Touch page.

Looks remarkably similar to Nexus devices

Get it on your Nexus device now!

While you will be able to install Ubuntu on the tablets and smartphones mentioned above, commercial tablets running the Linux distro will not be available in the market till at least 2014. The OS will be featured at the Mobile World Congress next week.

Ubuntu Touch for Tablets is said to be able to run a phone app to run on the screen at the same time as a tablet app. Among the most notable features offered by Ubuntu for Tablets is a new capability Canonical calls “side stage” multitasking, which aims to enable efficient multitasking and improve the usability of phone apps on tablets.

The interface will allow multiple user accounts on one tablet with full encryption for personal data, combined with Ubuntu’s security model. Canonical claims that Ubuntu for Tablets will have the power of the PC in a tablet thanks to a Heads-Up Display that will make it fast and easy to perform complex tasks on touch devices.

Ubuntu will feature a streamlined way of getting into apps and settings that won’t require buttons. Swiping the screen from one of the four sides will bring up apps, settings and other controls, completely eliminating the need of the home and back buttons.

For the interface, Canonical is sticking to the Unity UI that is present in current builds of Ubuntu. It features a side-pane that lets you multitask and pin apps for easier access. Switching between apps is easy as the UI is based on gestures. The UI makes use of all the edges of the screen to minimise navigation. A short swipe from the left edge reveals the side pane that can be used to navigate to your favourite apps or the homescreen. A full left-to-right swipe reveals a screen showing all open apps, while a full swipe from the right brings you to the last app you were using. Swiping down from the top reveals notifications about messages and calls, and just like in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, you can easily reply to texts or respond to notifications from the drop-down panel. A swipe upwards from the bottom edge reveals the app controls.

One of Ubuntu Touch's most unique features is that it can become a full PC and thin client when docked to a PC. The OS also comes with native core apps and lacks a Java overhead. It also uses the same drivers as Android, so our friendly neighbourhood hackers shouldn't find it too hard to port Ubuntu onto existing Android devices.

Interestingly, it is widely believed that Ubuntu will be one of the most important mobile operating systems to come out this year, to the point where a lot of people believe it can dethrone iOS and Android. We held a poll back in January about this very topic, and the results show Ubuntu winning by a landslide, with Firefox finishing a distant second.

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