A new operating system has recently been announced for smartphones: Ubuntu OS. The first Ubuntu OS smartphones are scheduled to appear in “two geographically large markets” this October, The Wall Street Journal reports. The good news are for developers which will get access to a Ubuntu OS version that has been optimized for the Galaxy Nexus at the end of this February.
Originally, Ubuntu was an open source Linux distribution for PCs and netbooks, but now, it is expanding into the smartphone market. Of course, to compete with other popular operating systems, Ubuntu has to really shine. Developed by Canonical, a company with only a few hundred members of staff, it wouldn’t seem as though Ubuntu can deliver a lot, but there are a few particular features that may just give it the edge.
One major feature of this system is its ability to be a portable PC. Simply attach a monitor and keyboard, and you can use your phone as a PC. The minimum requirements for this feature are a 1Ghz Cortex A9 Processor, 512MB of RAM, and 4-8 GB of flash storage, along with multi touch support, and smartphones that exceed these requirements are very common.
Having the ability to run a PC operating from only your phone could come in useful, but it is unlikely to be common practice, as a smartphone’s appeal is that it is portable, which is negated by the need to attach PC peripherals. While a high end smartphone could easily provide a desktop experience of pristine quality, it is important to notice the practicality of using a Linux operating system. Very few of the applications we have become familiar with are available on Ubuntu, and chances are that if you own all of the PC peripherals, you also own a much more practical PC and an operating system to go along with it, so utilising a smartphone as a PC is perhaps not the most attractive feature of Ubuntu for smartphone.
While an Ubuntu smartphone may not deliver a particularly unique experience, it does get over one hurdle that all other recent operating systems for the smartphone have stumbled upon, which is the lack of apps. All of the apps on every other version of Ubuntu will work with Ubuntu for smartphone, and there is a wide abundance of those. The only problem is how well apps designed for PC will handle touch controls. Another way Ubuntu solves the problem is utilising web apps as a way of ensuring users always have access to the apps and sites they are most familiar with, such as Facebook and Twitter, so that new users will not find it difficult to acclimatise to the operating system.
Perhaps the most valuable feature of the Ubuntu OS is its open source nature. While it is currently only officially available for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, developers can modify it in order to run on any Android phone. In many ways, Ubuntu is the most ‘free’ operating system for smartphone. Not only can you develop apps without going through any difficult publishing system, you can freely modify the operating system itself. This has been done to some extent with Android, but with the open source nature of Ubuntu, the large number of people who want a completely open smartphone operating system which they can modify as they please will probably be very satisfied with Ubuntu, so it will have at least some interest.
Overall, the Ubuntu OS for smartphone is not something that is likely to hugely shake the smartphone scene, but it may be very popular among those who require the specific features that it provides.