Canonical announces Ubuntu For Android…

    Canonical’s Ubuntu has long been a favourite desktop operating system of mine – as has, and is, Google’s mobile operating system Android. This being said, I’m sure you can imagine the excitement I felt when receiving word that Canonical had officially announced Ubuntu for Android, a seemingly big step in the right direction for the unification of the mobile and desktop experience. Let’s take a look at what details have been released thus far…

    While I’m certain there may be a dozen or so ideas running through your head as to exactly what Ubuntu For Android entails, let’s clear the air and make note of what has been officially announced from Canonical…

    What exactly is Ubuntu For Android?
    Ubuntu For Android is, at its essence, an ARM-based “edition” of Ubuntu that will be placed alongside the Android installation on any approved smartphone that meets the appropriate criteria (in the near future, of course – we won’t see any existing handsets officially supported). The idea is simple: an end-user will interact with Android when using their smartphone to perform routine operations (for example, making calls, executing applications, browsing the internet – all the stuff you would do on a daily basis). However, when said user connects their handset to a PC dock via HDMI, their computer’s monitor will not display the Android Home Screen they were navigating moments ago, but rather the Ubuntu installation that has been placed beside Android on their smartphone’s hard disk. Brilliant. This means that users can perform mobile operations using a mobile operating system (namely Android), and desktop operations using a desktop operating system (namely Ubuntu). When one “un-docks” their handset, they will notice that, once again, their Android experience is restored. Take a look at Ubuntu For Android in action…

    Of course, while this idea has great potential, it would be nice to know that we can still access the files we have stored on our Android installation, when we are using Ubuntu, right? Well, Canonical developers have you covered, I assure you. As you will see in the above video, users who toggle to their Ubuntu installation will have access to all of their personal files they have stored on Android. One can, for example, open an Ubuntu media player – VLC, for argument’s sake – and browse for videos stored in the Android file system on their handset. What’s more, one can – while using Ubuntu – perform all of the “routine smartphone operations” I mentioned above, such as making calls, sending and receiving text messages, browse the internet) with ease.

    While Ubuntu For Android will not ship with the Notifications Bar that we’ve grown to love while using Android, users will receive on-screen notifications when, for example, they a receive a text message or voice call. In addition, any applications that one has installed on Android can  also be executed from Ubuntu, although any Ubuntu applications you wish to install and execute will not function correctly unless they are written for the ARM architecture – which, to be frank, is unlikely at this point. However, this will certainly change if Ubuntu For Android becomes widely popular amongst end users.

    What handsets will be shipped with Ubuntu For Android?
    Before you become too excited and start your search online for an installable Ubuntu For Android ROM for your handset, please note the following: Canonical is not planning to make Ubuntu For Android publicly available. Instead, the software will be licensed to handset manufacturers, who will decide which of their smartphones will receive it as an “add-in” (again, as noted above, this means that existing handsets will not be officially supported). In order to utilise Ubuntu For Android, a smartphone must sport a dual-core processor, and at least 512 megabytes of RAM.

    Canonical will demonstrate Ubuntu For Android at the World Mobile Congress next week, and are “ready to go” in relation to handing it out to handset manufacturers. In fact, according to Canonical CEO Jane Silber, the ball is in the handset manufacturer’s court, explaining that “it really depends on them”, an indication that we may begin to see smartphones pre-loaded with Ubuntu within the next twelve months.

    Overall, what is your first impression of Ubuntu For Android? Do you feel that Canonical competitors (namely Microsoft and Apple) could benefit from adopting a “one device, two computers” system? Throw me some comments, and let me know…

    Daniel Kipping
    Daniel Kipping
    Daniel wrote 40 posts for the site as a guest contributor.

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