Canonical today announced its plans for launching Ubuntu for smartphones. The company will showcase the new OS at CES next week and hopes to have smartphones running on Ubuntu by early next year. The core OS is based on a typical Android Board Support Package, which means that smartphone vendors can use the same Android hardware for running Ubuntu, which minimizes their investment in adopting a new OS. In fact, the first demos are being done on a Galaxy Nexus. Also Read - Make in India: Canonical looking at manufacturing Ubuntu smartphones in India
Ubuntu for smartphones implements a swipe-based user interface, which looks quite similar to the one we saw on the Nokia N9 last year running MeeGo and we will soon see on RIM’s BlackBerry 10 come January 30. All four edges are swipe activated. The lock screen shows the latest updates like messages received, system status and much more. A swipe in from the left edge shows the user’s favorite apps. A swipe from the bottom down shows system status and one can access all system settings directly from there without having to go to a settings menu. Swiping in from the right edge takes the user to the last used app and a swipe up from the bottom edge shows the settings menu and options in any app. Swiping from the left to right edge shows all the running apps. Also Read - Canonical’s Ubuntu Edge smartphone fails to attain $32 million crowd funding target
Like the desktop OS, Ubuntu for smartphones treats both web apps and native apps equally. Canonical says it will have most of the big apps and sites already on the platform at the time of launch. Even web apps will be able to give notifications like a native app. This could be a big deal but the security aspects of the system remain to be seen. Also Read - Canonical breaks crowdfunding record as Ubundu Edge crosses $10 million, fails to achieve target
Ubuntu for smartphones will also have a universal search bar that not only searches for stuff on the device but will also do a contextual online search depending on the search query. The homescreen too implements swipes to shift from people to apps to music to videos. Messages can be accessed via a top down swipe. The OS does not differentiate between SMS, MMS, e-mails, Facebook and Twitter notifications, with all of them accessible at a single place. The Ubuntu One Cloud will keep a back up of the data stored on the smartphone and users will be able to access their photos and other media across devices running on other platforms too.
This announcement could be the biggest story from CES, which starts next week. But it remains to be seen whether Ubuntu will be able to break away from its niche desktop user base. If hardware vendors jump on to Ubuntu, this could be the best chance Canonical will ever get to become more mainstream.