Ubuntu had teased users yesterday with a countdown hinting at a touch-friendly mobile operating system which they unveiled today. The new mobile version of Ubuntu is built on existing Linux/Android drivers (BSP package) without a Java Virtual Machine so it uses the “full power of the phone”. It supports both ARM and x86 so the Ubuntu phone OS will be compatible with Android phone makers with trivial changes.
“We are defining a new era of convergence in technology, with one unified operating system that underpins cloud computing, data centers, PCs and consumer electronics” says Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu and VP Products at Canonical.
Back in February, Canonical had announced Ubuntu for Android, which was a fusion of both Android and the Ubuntu desktop OS. It works like a regular phone, but once docked it becomes a fully-fledged version of Ubuntu with Unity UI. That was just one part of Ubuntu’s plan for a fully interconnected system, from your phone and tablet to your PC and TV. Though no carriers or manufacturers have been announced for the system.
Right now the only officially supported device for the Ubuntu phone OS is the Galaxy Nexus, while fully operational Ubuntu phones should be arriving sometime in early 2014. Any phone built for Android with at least a dual-core Cortex A9, 512MB RAM, 4GB storage and 800 x 400 resolution should be able to run Ubuntu.
The Ubuntu phone OS stands out from the crowd as it does away with the usual grid based app repository seen on iOS and Android, but instead focuses on edge swipes instead of buttons, similar to Windows 8. A short swipe from the left brings up a dock of your favorite apps while a full swipe brings out all your open apps. A flip from right to left flips through any apps you’re running, while a swipe up from the bottom reveals app controls. There’s no discrimination between apps as HTML5 web applications sit alongside native apps, working seamlessly together. The Ubuntu OS makes use of a global search across apps and content for easy searching and will also include built-in voice commands.