Ubuntu – the mobile operating system of the future?

By Graeme Burton
03 Jan 2013 View Comments
Ubuntu for smartphones

Linux operating system vendor Canonical has unveiled a mobile version of its Ubuntu operating system which, it says, will be available from 2014.

Ubuntu for Phones is based on the Linux kernel and uses the Unity user interface that Canonical debuted with Ubuntu 10.10 – to widespread criticism.

Further reading

The strategy is similar to Microsoft's "Modern UI" interface that the software giant is seeking to use on desktop PCs, tablet computers and on its Windows Phone operating system.

However, Ubuntu phones, claims Canonical, will be able to be used like a desktop PC when connected to a large-screen monitor, keyboard and mouse.

"When we began developing Unity a few years ago, the aim was to create a single family of interfaces that work the same way on different devices. This means that unlike most of our rivals, we are able to use a single underlying OS across all the devices which people use, be they PCs, phones or any other device," wrote Canonical CEO Jane Silber in a blog post.

She added: "What is remarkable about the Ubuntu phone interface is the extent to which it is instantly recognisable as Ubuntu in terms of how everything looks and works, yet it is perfectly designed for its form factor."

Unlike series-8 Windows, though, Silber claimed that it will be possible to write an app for Ubuntu for Phones, which can run on the Ubuntu desktop.

"Developers can re-purpose web applications for the phone, using the very same web app API, or they can adapt HTML5 apps they've already written for other mobile platforms. Both require minimum effort, which should ensure that we have plenty of new apps coming to the platform in the coming months. It's the development of native apps, however, where things really get interesting.

"By using the new QML-based Ubuntu SDK, it's possible to develop a native app in such a way that makes it available for both the desktop and the phone – not to mention any further form factors we address in the future. As long as you create the right interfaces, you can deliver an app for all Ubuntu form factors, but build once and upload once to the same single store, the Ubuntu Software Centre.

Ubuntu is one of a growing number of Linux choices on smartphones, notwithstanding the fact that Google's Android operating system is based on the Linux kernel.

Finnish start-up Jolla will be formally releasing its Sailfish operating system this year. It is based on Meego, the Linux-based operating system that Nokia was developing with Intel, but which was only featured on one phone – the Nokia N9 – in 2011 before the company standardised on Windows Phone.

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