Ubuntu is one of the most-used Linux distros out there, and it seems the geeks among us won't have to wait very long before they get to use it on smartphones as well. Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth has told the Wall Street Journal that smartphones running on Ubuntu would be released this October.
Shuttleworth didn't mention any OEMs or the hardware for the smartphones. However, those itching to get their hands on the OS have reason to rejoice, as Shuttleworth stated that a ROM of Ubuntu will be available for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus later this month.
He also said that the operating system will make its debut in two major markets this year, but didn't reveal which countries they might be. Shuttleworth did state that North America is a key market for Canonical. It is likely that the company will release its smartphones in lesser-developed markets too.
Looks suspiciously similar to Nexus devices
Canonical unveiled Ubuntu for smartphones back in January. The operating system was showcased running on a Galaxy Nexus during CES.
The operating system promises a less cluttered interface than its contemporaries, and one of its most unique features is that it can become a full PC and thin client when docked. 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.
The poll results show Ubuntu winning by a lot
The company will also be releasing the new operating system's SDK, which will let developers create native or HTML5 apps. It will allow developers to re-purpose web apps so that they look and work like native apps.
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.
All the basic smartphone features like web browsing, SMS, MMS, photography, email and media are supported. Canonical will also be partnering with OEMs and ODMs to bring the operating system to a wider audience.
Ubuntu will also bundle Ubuntu One—its free cloud storage service—with the mobile OS, just like it does for the desktop variant. The service will let you automatically upload all your data, media, files and apps to the cloud, so they can be accessed from the desktop or other devices.
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