Ubuntu for tablets officially connects Canonical's convergent dream

Canonical has been saying for a while that it intends to make Ubuntu an all-in-one operating system, meaning one version will run on all devices from phones to tablets to traditional laptops and desktops and TVs. Given that aim, it's not surprising that the newly unveiled tablet-optimized version of Ubuntu looks quite a bit like Ubuntu for phones that we saw unveiled last month. And, even better, we won't have to wait long to see Ubuntu for tablets in action, because devices will be on display at MWC next week. And, just like the Touch Preview for phones, the preview image for Ubuntu tablets will be available on February 21st, and will be compatible with the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10.

Interestingly, in the introduction video for Ubuntu's tablet version, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth takes a moment to quote a couple tech news sources on Ubuntu Phone, and comes to the conclusion that "It's clear Ubuntu is going to have a huge impact on the phone industry." This is obviously just a marketing line, but while we are impressed with Ubuntu Phone, we're still a bit down on the timeline of the plans, especially since the first Ubuntu phones aren't expected to hit the market until the end of the year. Canonical doesn't seem to want phablets either as Ubuntu for tablets is planned for devices between 6 and 20 inches, with minimum specs including an A15 processor, 2GB of RAM, and a minimum of 8GB of storage.

Right off the bat with Ubuntu for tablets, Canonical is going after a market that has been mostly ignored: those who share a tablet. Android just got multi-user support in Android 4.2, meaning only Nexus 7 and 10 users even get that option, and Apple is still ignoring the idea that households may not want to buy each member their own iPad. The login screen for Ubuntu tablets looks like a combination of the Ubuntu desktop login and the Ubuntu phone "Welcome screen". On the left are the various user accounts, and guest account, and on the right is the "personalized artwork", which is the interactive wheel showing various notifications. It's unclear though how the "personalized artwork" is displayed for multiple users or when no one is logged in.


Jumping into the OS, things look quite a bit like the gesture-centric UI that we saw introduced with Ubuntu for phones. The Unity app bar is still on the left edge, and swiping out from that edge will bring up the App Screen, where you can see running apps, and other apps on your device. Again, Shuttleworth takes the time here to point out that native apps and web apps are "equal citizens" in the world of Ubuntu.

The first big feature reveal for Ubuntu tablet comes in the form of the "side stage", which is Ubuntu's form of multi-window multitasking, which is another feature that has been ignored in the base mobile OSes, and only made available through Samsung's proprietary UI, and the few tablets running Windows 8. Ubuntu's side stage takes the right edge of the screen and allows users to run a phone-optimized app alongside a tablet-optimized app, and if the apps are universal, the apps can be switched between the larger and smaller viewing area. It looks like a nice solution, but as always, it depends on the apps available.


It looks like Ubuntu is embracing responsive design just like Android, because the UI from phone to tablet (and theoretically to desktops) all use the same design, which is then optimized for each screen. On tablets, the screen real estate is filled with higher quality images and such. But, throughout you'll see the same design language and features, including the notification tray that impressed us with Ubuntu phone, which can now be pulled down in the side stage for easy access while still doing something else. The side stage also holds the new dedicated share menu for Ubuntu, which promises support for major networks. Facebook, Twitter, Ubuntu One, Gmail, and Pinterest were shown off in the demo, but it is unclear if the menu will expand as you install apps, like the Android share menu, or if it is set like iOS. We hope for the former. The Ubuntu Dash is of course here as well, making it easy to search for any content both on and off your device.

As with Ubuntu phone, Canonical is also playing up the voice controls for Ubuntu tablet, but this time the focus isn't just on creating more powerful apps, but in making the tablet into a creation device, not just a consumption device. The aim for tablet apps is that voice commands will allow you to have the "power of desktop apps" on your tablet, because you can still have all of the advanced options without needing to fill the UI with commands. It's definitely an interesting idea, and one that we want to try out. 


Of course, the real importance of Ubuntu's all-in-one strategy is in the convergence of devices that you can see at the end of the demo video. We've seen before that if you connect a phone to a dock, you'll get the full Ubuntu desktop experience, and the tablet is no different. It looks like Ubuntu plans for phones and tablets to be able to dock together as well. This means you can dock your phone to your tablet, and whatever you had open on your phone will be displayed in the side stage. Dock your tablet to a keyboard, and you'll get the Ubuntu desktop with all of your apps transferred over, and dock to a TV and you'll get the TV interface for a more "lean back" experience for watching video or playing games. 

We've said it before and we'll say it again: convergence is the future of computing, and Canonical is pushing Ubuntu towards that full force. Apple has yet to truly make the connection between mobile and traditional computers. Google's laptop/desktop presence is still tied to Chrome OS and not Android, so there is a disconnect there. Microsoft has been working with the "shared core" with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, but there still isn't the docking and interaction between the devices like Canonical has planned. It's an impressive dream. Now, it's time we see it in real life.

source: Canonical

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25 Comments

1. desijatt

Posts: 58; Member since: Aug 28, 2012

beautiful

6. abdane

Posts: 507; Member since: Oct 07, 2011

now have to choose between Android and Ubuntu ! :(

2. lilhart

Posts: 23; Member since: Jan 22, 2013

I guess the days of idiotic patents are coming to an end and people are trying to come up with real innovation and b'ful design.

3. TheCellX

Posts: 50; Member since: Nov 08, 2011

Really interesting. I like the UI... some fresh and needed air..

4. tusshharish

Posts: 342; Member since: Oct 23, 2012

i love ubuntu do you??????

5. pokharkarsaga

Posts: 547; Member since: Feb 23, 2012

More elegant than Windows phone & more functional than android

7. NateAdam8

Posts: 435; Member since: Feb 17, 2012

Android could always be replaced

8. rusticguy

Posts: 2828; Member since: Aug 11, 2012

Great. If i were to chose between Ubuntu and Android i would rather take the former on all devcies.

9. hltechie unregistered

Awesome!

10. ilia1986 unregistered

Now *THAT* is how one competes with Android. Well done, Canonical. Very very very well done. Now it's up to Google to provide a similar experience in Android 5.0 :D

18. rusticguy

Posts: 2828; Member since: Aug 11, 2012

With JAVA Bloatware of Android it can never be same as Ubuntu in performance on a given hardware i think.

24. ilia1986 unregistered

So... remove the Java bloatware, optimize the kernel and streamline the UI. It would be awesome to see Android-ubuntu app compatibility. :D

11. jove39

Posts: 2143; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

Ubuntu may deliver where winRT failed...perfect combination of productivity and entertainment

12. Valdomero

Posts: 662; Member since: Nov 13, 2012

I can't wait for this OS to be released. I wonder who will be their hardware manufacturers and how much will these devices cost? I hope these beauties won't cost over $400 unlocked

13. archangel9

Posts: 233; Member since: Feb 07, 2010

Proud to be a user of Ubuntu and Android.You just combined the two because after all it's Linux altogether. Ubuntu for Android on desktop,Ubuntu phone ,soon to be on all Android phones and now for tablets. GAME CHANGER

14. valapsp

Posts: 565; Member since: Aug 12, 2011

minimum RAM of 2 GBs? Nexus 7 has 1 GB but is supported. How come?

15. Techboi

Posts: 84; Member since: Sep 20, 2012

If Nokia choose to use another OS, Ubuntu is the one they should take a creak at it not Android.

16. Techboi

Posts: 84; Member since: Sep 20, 2012

crack*

17. yero789 unregistered

Ok so the truth for me is-I always tried using Ubuntu on my netbook,because Windows 7 Starter was so slow on it(my netbook has Intel Atom N455 1,6Ghz,2GB of RAM).But whenever I installed Ubuntu,it was running just like Windows 7,even worse,it was slow and laggy.But when I upgraded to Windows 8,my netbook started to work so fast,I know I have an issue with Windows 8-whenever I want to use Metro apps I need to change the screen resolution,but that's not a problem for me.So in my opinion Windows 8 is better than Ubuntu!

23. Reluctant_Human

Posts: 913; Member since: Jun 28, 2012

They have a version of Ubuntu specific for netbooks and it runs great on mine. I would suggest giving that a try and see how you like it.

26. yero789 unregistered

I know that version,but that version isn't as beautiful as the desktop version+I use Microsoft Office very much,I need Word,PowerPoint very-very much,because I'm studying and I need those too programs very much.I know Ubuntu has OpenOffice Free,but it isn't as good as Microsoft Office.Anyways,thank you :) I don't think that I will change the OS on my netbook for a long time,because my netbook works fast and with no lag! :)

19. rusticguy

Posts: 2828; Member since: Aug 11, 2012

Nexus tablets may see a jump in sales as there are quite a big number of users who use Ubuntu on Desktop so they may want Ubuntu on their Tablets too.

20. MC1123

Posts: 1256; Member since: Nov 12, 2012

they better bring this fast!!! im waiting for sailfish as well!!

25. cheeseaddict

Posts: 49; Member since: Sep 05, 2012

is ubuntu and android somehow related? i'm feeling a threat for an droid, the ui is smooth and clean like what is said on the vid, hoping to see it soon in action

28. alexvoda

Posts: 39; Member since: Jan 11, 2013

I think the ideal OEM for Ubuntu would be Asus. Asus are the only ones who make a phone-dockable-in-a-tablet-dockable-in-a-notebook with the Padfone and that would suit this concept perfectly. Asus also doesn't have a big market share on phones or even on tablets. So with Android they compete with hardware against other Android OEMs. With Ubuntu they would bring a whole new kind of product. The best move Asus could pull would be to ship unlocked boot loaders and have the exact same hardware in both Ubuntu and Android variants. They have the Transformer (robot themed) line for Android. They could add the Morpher or Shapeshifter (more human themed) line for Ubuntu (which is actually Southern African for "humanity towards others")

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