Finally, Ubuntu OS for Smartphones?

If you’ve been impatiently waiting to do some smartphone development with an Ubuntu operating system, your wait may soon be over. Judging from some tantalizing statements made by Canonical representatives at a recent trade show, your wait could be over as early as the end of this year.

The show in question was the Computex trade show in Taipei. John Barnard, global marketing manager at Canonical, said that his company would have some announcements to make on Ubuntu OS for smartphones later this year. That doesn’t mean the operating system will be ready by then, alas – but he did note that the company was continuing its development of the smartphone OS, so there’s reason to hope.

Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth also offered up a cagey reply to a direct question. When asked whether Ubuntu OS for smartphones would be released later this year or next, he said “possibly” and refused to be pinned down to a specific date. Barnard agree with Shuttleworth, saying that the OS might be released next year, but also could not give a date. He added the detail that Canonical would not be directly releasing the smartphone OS for download, but device makers would still be able to load it onto smartphones. Barnard held off providing any further details, saying that interested parties would simply have to wait until later this year, when Canonical makes the actual announcements.

Ubuntu and smartphone developers have already been waiting a long time. Canonical has dropped hints for years of its intentions, but finally said last year that it would develop an Ubuntu OS for mobile phones and tablets. An early version came out for smartphones, but the company jettisoned it to focus on desktop and server versions of the operating system.

So just how close to ready is the Ubuntu OS for smartphones? How much longer will developers have to wait? Judging from one of Canonical’s demonstrations at the trade show, quite possibly not very long at all. The company showed off a smartphone running both Android and a version of Ubuntu. While the smartphone booted with Android, it could load Ubuntu when it was placed on a dock that connected it to a monitor.

Even better, the smartphone running Android and Ubuntu provides the same experience of Ubuntu that a user would get from using the full desktop version of Ubuntu OS – including the Unity user interface. This means users get full access to the Ubuntu Software Center, from which they can download applications. They won’t lose smartphone functionality, though; users can get to their contacts and keep receiving SMSes and notifications even while their phone is in Ubuntu mode.

It’s this dual-OS mode on smartphones that is most likely to be available later this year. Barnard noted that a lot of device makers have expressed interest in this.

For more on this story, please visit this PC World article. 

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