Post unveiling Ubuntu for smartphones, Canonical yesterday brought out Ubuntu for Tablets, a touch-based operating system that can run on screens between 6 inches to 20 inches in size.

Starting February 21, Ubuntu for Tablets will be available for the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10. At the same time, a preview of Ubuntu for phones will be making its way to the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and LG Nexus 4. Canonical has promised to provide installation tools and instructions to make the process of flashing the early build on the devices a smooth affair.

While you will be able to install Ubuntu on the tablets and smartphones mentioned above, commercial tablets with 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 for tablets is here!

Ubuntu for tablets is here!

The company claims the new interface and design “breaks new ground in design and engineering”. It has real multitasking capabilities that allows 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.

The tablet interface is presented by exactly the same OS and code that provides the phone, PC and TV interfaces, taking the device experience a notch higher. When docked to a keyboard, Ubuntu will offer you a complete PC experience, says Canonical, with access to remote Windows applications over standard protocols from Microsoft, Citrix, VMWare and Wyse. Considering even Microsoft is looking at unifying its desktop and phone platforms, this seems like a great move on Canonical’s part.

Canonical claims that even without chipset-specific optimisation, Ubuntu performs well on entry-level hardware. “Our four-year engagement with ARM has shaped Ubuntu for mobile,” said Rick Spencer, VP Ubuntu Engineering at Canonical. “We benefit from the huge number of contributing developers who run Ubuntu every day, many of whom are moving to touch devices as their primary development environment.

For silicon vendors, Ubuntu is said to be compatible with any Linux-oriented Board Support Package (BSP). This means Ubuntu is easy to enable on most chipset designs that are currently running Android. Ubuntu and Android are the two platforms enabled by Linaro members.

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