Ubuntu, the operating system made by a community, not a corporate, has recently announced plans to release a mobile version of the operating system, giving users the ability to converge phone, PC and thin client into a single enterprise ‘superphone’.
Ubuntu claims to raise the bar for mobile UI design by using all four edges of the screen for a more immersive experience. The beautifully distilled interface will have a unique full PC capability when docked with a monitor, keyboard and mouse.
The handset interface for Ubuntu introduces distinctive new user experiences to the mobile market, including:
- Edge magic: thumb gestures from all four edges of the screen enable users to find content and switch between apps faster than other phones.
- Deep content immersion – controls appear only when the user wants them.
- A beautiful global search for apps, content and products
- Voice and text commands in any application for faster access to rich capabilities
- Both native and web or HTML5 apps
- Evolving personalised art on the welcome screen.
We expect Ubuntu to be popular in the enterprise market, enabling customers to provision a single secure device for all PC, thin client and phone functions. Ubuntu is already the most widely used Linux enterprise desktop, with customers in a wide range of sectors focused on security, cost and manageability. We also see an opportunity in basic smartphones that are used for the phone, SMS, web and email, where Ubuntu outperforms thanks to its native core apps and stylish presentation.
- Jane Silber, CEO of Canonical.
With more than 20 million desktop users and growing, Ubuntu is a proven platform in the PC industry and a potentially potent new force in mobile.
The market is hungry for something better than today’s polarised mobile phone OS choice. At one end, you have iOS with its glossy, photo-realistic finishes and complexity. At the other end sits Windows Phone, which is flat, over-simplified and gets boring quickly. Meanwhile, Android offers a scattered, fragmented experience that is often frustrating and fails to make full use of many devices’ capabilities.
- Ewan Macleod, Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review
The launch of a phone version of Ubuntu brings to market a new and strikingly beautiful user experience that scales smartly from the phone to the desktop, where Ubuntu is already a famous alternative to Windows 8 and OS X.
From what I’ve seen, Ubuntu offers a far more sophisticated, feature-rich, yet user-friendly experience that takes full advantage of modern phone hardware and brings extraordinary features like PC convergence, ‘edge magic’ and a personalised live welcome screen – truly stunning. We are seeing the birth of the next generation mobile user interface.
- Ewan Macleod, Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review
The promise of a single OS for all device form factors – desktop, TV and phone – is really unique to Ubuntu. One common platform across all these devices has great appeal – not least for enterprise users, who relish the opportunity to combine the phone with the thin client or desktop in one highly secure device. They will be able to manage their Ubuntu smartphones using exactly the same tools they use for Ubuntu on the server, desktop and cloud. In short, Ubuntu is making an attractive pitch to become your new favourite platform for phones – offering a designer experience at the low end of the market, and a game-changing convergence of PCs and phones at the high end.
Q + A from the Ubuntu phone launch
Ubuntu does not use a Java virtual machine, improving performance for apps that are natively compiled to use the full hardware capabilities. All core apps are native applications, making the basic phone functionality extremely lean and fast. Ubuntu also supports rich web applications for highly portable application development that targets multiple platforms – iOS, Android, Windows and Ubuntu.
Visually, Ubuntu is very distinctive and elegant. Windows has a flat, over-simplified visual style and iOS has very glossy, skeumorphic, photo-realistic icons. Ubuntu features a sophisticated, neat but natural interface that showcases your content.
While both Ubuntu and Android use the Linux kernel, and so share drivers and low-level services, Ubuntu is a full PC operating system. Ubuntu offers a more complete platform in part because they enter the market now, when phone CPUs can run a complete desktop environment remarkably well. Android was initially introduced on older CPUs and thus has many limitations compared to the full Ubuntu range of capabilities. Ubuntu apps can use all cores of the CPU and the full native OpenGL and GLES of the GPU. Being an open OS, Ubuntu is more likely to appeal to manufacturers that are already shipping Android phones than Windows.
There is already a thriving developer ecosystem around Ubuntu, the worlds most popular desktop Linux. In addition, most Android developers use Ubuntu to develop their mobile applications, so there is a large developer base that already have Ubuntu installed.
Ubuntu will include both the Chromium and Firefox browsers, ensuring a first-class and competitive web browser experience as well as first class web and HTML5 applications. So developers aiming for cross-platform audiences, using tools such as PhoneGap, will find that Ubuntu is very easy to support in addition to iOS, Windows and Android.
Games developers want full access to the native OpenGL and GLES, together with top class gaming development platforms. Ubuntu provides native access to all GPU functions for first-class gaming performance, and the leading game engines all support Ubuntu as a target environment.
Native app developers will use the SDK for Ubuntu, which makes it very easy to create beautiful apps that perform well on a wide range of hardware and form factors.
Ubuntu will run on low end phones released in 2013. A dual-core Cortex A9 running at 1 Ghz, and 512 MB RAM are the key requirements.
Ubuntu works on any device specification, but it meets the demands of two key segments particularly well: those who want a beautiful but easy to use, basic smartphone and those who want enterprise-grade thin client and desktop capability in a secure smartphone that can be managed using enterprise tools.
Ubuntu feels cleaner and more immersive than existing smartphones. It doesn’t need a home button, and the interface for most apps is cleaner and more open, with more room for content. That’s because Ubuntu introduces several new ideas to handheld interfaces.
It uses every edge of the phone, giving you fast access to favourite apps, fast switching between apps, immediate access to system settings at any time, and a way to show or hide the buttons that make up an app interface or structure. Keeping those items “off the edge” leaves more room for content and makes the phone feel bigger and more spacious.
For OEMs and operators looking for a competitive alternative to the current duopoly of mobile operating systems, Ubuntu offers:
- An existing developer community and app ecosystem
- Relationships with many OEMs who already ship Ubuntu on the PC
- Patterns of customisation for operator and OEM partners
- Great performance from low to high end hardware
- Finally, the convergence of desktop, thin client and phone
into a high-end handheld device is unique to Ubuntu.
As an entry-level smartphone, Ubuntu offers a stunning experience that is well differentiated from Android, easy to use and uncluttered. On phones with a low bill-of-materials, Ubuntu is sharper, more responsive and easier to use than existing options.
At the high end of the smartphone market Ubuntu creates an entirely new ‘superphone’ category: a phone that becomes a full PC when docked with a keyboard and monitor. Ubuntu is a popular desktop in security-conscious enterprises and government deployments.
It includes thin client software that enables Windows apps to be delivered, securely, from the cloud or the enterprise data centre. That full desktop is included in every high-end Ubuntu phone, and the phone can be managed just like an Ubuntu desktop or server, using standard Ubuntu management tools.