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Ubuntu smart phone: Is this what the future looks like?

Software developer Canonical has announced that it intends to release a smart phone interface for Ubuntu, its widely popular Linux-based enterprise desktop operating system. It is designed to work seamlessly with other Ubuntu installations, allowing network administrators to integrate phone and desktop functionality into something akin to a super phone.

Ubuntu, which in October arrived in Version 12.10, is one of the flavors of Linux that is approved for government agencies, although that doesn’t mean it’s in wide use in the public sector. And although agencies are moving to mobile in a big way, the field is already crowded with adoption on Apple iOS, Android and, potentially this year, BlackBerry 10 devices.

Linux smart phones becoming the next big thing in public sector enterprises might be a longshot, but Canonical’s model for a smart phone that can operate as a desktop computer could be a glimpse of what the future holds. It seems to take Microsoft’s Windows 8 idea of one OS for all devices a step further, allowing a smart phone to function as any device.

Given the Ubuntu OS’ small footprint resource-wise, it is no surprise that the company will be able to put in on a smart phone without paring it down. In fact, the original operating system is intact -- allowing  users full functionality if the phone were docked to a keyboard, mouse and monitor.

Canonical seems to be sticking with the same name for its “mobile version,” probably in order to reinforce the idea that it is the same OS. That's a shame, because I thought of the name they could have used – Mobuntu.

Canonical says that this mobile version of Ubuntu also has many distinctive features. “Edge magic” allows use of thumb gestures from all four edges of the device’s display. This goes well with hide-away controls that are only there when needed. Voice controls will be available in nearly every application.

In order to attract manufacturers, Canonical has promised to provide engineering services to help with integration with phones. The company recognizes that adding yet another platform for network administrators to fold in to their BYOD strategy will be a bit of a burden, so it is making every effort to help alleviate that.

The first Ubuntu smart phones reportedly will arrive sometime in 2014. Whether they catch on with smart-phone users is anybody’s guess, but the idea that people could use their smart phones for any computing task is one that might catch on.

Posted by Greg Crowe on Jan 04, 2013 at 9:03 AM


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