Ubuntu Linux Unveiled for Android PhonesIn a significant step, Canonical has announced an Android version of Ubuntu that runs concurrently on multi-core phones and launches Unity when connected to a desktop monitor and keyboard.
For years, tech pundits have speculated about the merging of phones and desktop computers, with Motorola's line of Webtop accessories only the latest in a series of products. Now Canonical has stepped in with what could be the most comprehensive attempt yet: Ubuntu for Android, which the company says launches a full desktop OS experience whenever you connect your phone to a computer screen and keyboard.
In this mode, Ubuntu works exactly as it does on a regular PC, with the same Unity UI and access to certified applications including Chrome and Firefox—except that your phone is now standing in for a bulky CPU tower. Otherwise, Ubuntu for Android stays invisible; when you're out and about, your phone works just like a normal Android phone. Canonical says that all data and services stay consistent between the Ubuntu and Android environments, including contacts, SMS, and voice calls.
The desktop mode also works with Windows applications in virtual environments, and with its various enterprise hooks, could eliminate the need for IT departments to manage separate phones and PCs for each employee. Ubuntu for Android will supports HDMI, USB, Google Docs, and 4G LTE data, among other things, and Canonical says wireless carriers can load up branded applications and services as part of the Ubuntu desktop.
Ubuntu for Android will require a multi-core Android phone. There are no quad-core phones available in the U.S. yet, although that's expected to change very soon. Also, judging by Mark Shuttleworth's quote that "the desktop is the killer app for quad-core phones in 2012," it's pretty clear that the company is targeting brand-new handsets coming out this year, rather than any existing dual-core devices, though we should learn more about this in the coming days.
Today's announcement is a big step toward fulfilling Shuttleworth's promise back in October to have Ubuntu running on smartphones, tablets, phones, TVs, and smart screens by early 2014. It certainly has us interested; we typically have a soft spot for this kind of product, even though each one hasn't always panned out in the end (think Openmoko).
Canonical has yet to announce a release date; the company said that is "dependent on the manufactures and/or mobile network operators that we work with."
For more, see PCMag's full reviews of the Motorola Atrix 2 and our Hands-On with the Droid Razr's Lapdock and Trackpad.
By Jamie Lendino