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January 3, 2013

Ubuntu Software Turns High-End Smartphones into PCs

Canonical has launched a new version of Ubuntu designed specifically for Android-powered Smartphones.

The Linux-based software enables users to run desktop apps on their devices, basically turning high-end Smartphones into computers when connected to a monitor, mouse and keyboard.

Ubuntu co-exists with Android on the same Linux kernel so they can run simultaneously.

“This means one address book, one set of bookmarks, one place for text messages and one inbox for mail,” reads the website. “And thanks to careful integration between the Ubuntu desktop and Android, user’s have access to the phone’s functions when it’s docked — including making and receiving calls.”

But Ubuntu also works well on basic Smartphones, for basic tasks such as phone, texting, Web browsing and e-mail, says Canonical CEO Jane Silber.

“Ubuntu makes finding and switching between apps and content easier than any other mobile OS I’ve ever used,” Silber said in a blog post. “This focus on usability has always been a driving principle of the Ubuntu project, and it’s wonderful to see our multi-platform vision in action.”

Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth says when it came to designing the phone OS, the challenge was to use what made all of the existing interfaces (for TV or PCs for instance) “great,” and put these features together into “something you can use in one hand.”

In a video posted to YouTube, Shuttleworth demonstrates how apps and other services can be accessed by swiping either the left-hand or right-hand side of the screen.

It’s the “first phone that uses every edge of the screen,” Shuttleworth says. “Each edge has specific purposes.”

A touch to the left side of the screen makes the users favorite apps appear in a row from top to bottom. Swiping on the right gives the user quick access his or her most used apps.

“We’ve made Web applications first-class citizens in Ubuntu.”

And, though HTML5 has its limitations, “we’ve built a native app development environment for the phone,” he says, adding native apps are faster and more responsive.

“It uses QML to give you a really slick, easy development experience for touch apps that can have their engine written in C or C++ and also use Javascript for some of the UI glue that isn’t performance critical.”

The QML tool kit and sample application can be downloaded here.

Shuttleworth said the top gaming companies are “moving to support Ubuntu and we’re working with the leading graphics chip vendors to optimize their performance so you can count on having all the best games in the palm of your hand.”

Ubuntu phones are expected to hit the market in the fourth quarter of 2013. Those who are interested can register to be alerted when the devices become available.