back to article Ubuntu for smartphones aims to replace today's mobes, laptops

Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system, has announced a new version of Ubuntu designed specifically for smartphones. Ubuntu for phones is based on the Linux kernel and uses the same Unity user interface that Canonical has developed for the desktop, which the company says should make it immediately …


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  1. Christoph

    Great idea!

    Just think - every time you send or receive a text message, you can get pop-up ads from Amazon based on its content!

    1. RICHTO

      Re: Great idea!

      "the company says should make it immediately familiar to anyone who has used Ubuntu before." - im sure the 2 of them will be very pleased.

      Anyway, someone already beat them to getting a full desktop OS onto a phone and released Windows RT on a mobile.

      Yet more Linux fragmentation in the market place - this is likely to be a failure.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Great idea!

        Agreed. They should have taken note what a disaster the Win 8 UI has turned out to be and worked on a completely separate paradigm, like Apple and Google did from the start. Different screen dimensions, different primary input methods require different underpinnings!

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: Great idea!

          It is not the UI which makes Android what it is. It is the IPC paradigms and specifically the whole idea of intents and activities. That allows loose coupling and interaction of applications without them having to run each other in an "embedded" fashion like the accursed Microsoft OLE.

          That is actually already present in modern Linux both KDE and Gnome3 are built around that concept. In fact they are more "mobile-ready" than Win8 by far. Once this foundation is in place (and it is), adjusting the UI via a theme is a mere technicality.

          In any case with 60%+ of the devices out there having a ready and available linux kernel getting this done is a mere technicality. It is also not quite "entering the crowded space". The space is crowded consumer-wise. It is not that crowded from a hobbyist/developer perspective.

        2. Mark .

          Re: Great idea!

          Windows 8 also adopts the different paradigm UI, the difference being the OS offers both UIs (not-Metro, and desktop/windowed) in the same OS, rather than being completely separate operating systems. This is distinct from Unity, where it really does seem to be the same UI for everyone. (Though personally, the things I hate about it are nothing to do with it being for touchscreen, but things that don't make sense in any context, like the new scrollbars that are a pain to click.)

          And it wouldn't surprise me if we see some kind of ChromeOS/Android integration in future (see ). Same with Apple to be honest.

      2. Ian Yates

        Re: Great idea!

        "a full desktop OS onto a phone and released Windows RT on a mobile."

        Windows RT is far from a full desktop OS [citation]

        Or, in more detail: "Windows RT can't run third-party desktop applications. At all."

    2. LarsG

      Re: Great idea!

      But how many times do we have to hear of this second coming?

      Every year Linux is expected to take over from the mainstream. Every year I'm left feeling disappointed.

      1. JEDIDIAH

        Re: Great idea!

        Got a router, TV, BluRay player, Cable box, PVR, or PHONE.

        Then you already have Linux.

        Linux is already quite "mainstream". It just hasn't displaced WinDOS.

        Once you ditch legacy WinDOS apps anything is possible. Although chances are that the future vision of this concept will be based on x86 chips because corporations simply can't get over their Windows habit.

        1. Charles Calthrop

          Re: Great idea!

          What do you mean by 'legacy'

        2. Lamont Cranston


          Linux may be the dominant OS in the forms you describe, but they are viewed by the public as appliances, not computers. You don't need to know anything about Linux to operate your PVR, but knowing how to operate your PVR won't be of any use if you then decide to install Linux on your PC

          That said, I think people still view their phones as appliances, and so Ubuntu for phones should have as much chance as anything else (probably not a hope in hell, given the dominance of Android & iOS, and the fact that every executive wants to be able to use his/her iPad as a business device). Good luck to them, though.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Great idea!

        It won't because the mainstream is pre-installed computers from PC World, Argos and the like.

        When netbooks with Linux loaded on them were given away with mobile broadband contract many of them were returned as people wanted Windows and couldn't use the Linux distro on them.

      3. Snake Silver badge

        Re: Great idea!

        Of *course* the Linux OS tweek freaks keep proclaiming the oncoming "Year of Linux!" - it suits their personal delusions of grandeur.

        Linux will NEVER gain an appreciable spot of OS desktop market share. Linux fans constantly deny the reality: IT'S NOT THE OS, STUPID. IT IS THE APPLICATIONS THAT RUN *ON* THE OS.

        And since Linux has no 'killer' business-level application support - Photoshop, InDesign, ProTools, industry-specific custom apps, etc - it will never gain a foothold. "Just use WINE", the Linux gurus state. Great! Just install a OS not specified by the developer, simply out of sheer stubbornness, in order to get your desired application actually working yet still expect application tech support! Brilliant!

        Millions of business machines run what they run - Windows - because that is where the needed applications lay. The millions of custom, industry-specific apps written in Windows guarantees that Windows won't be going far for quite a long time, delusions of grandeur not withstanding. A business will not pay for the investment of changing to a new application base - off the shelf or custom - simply because some OS makes some type of promise of improvement. The amortization. nor the guarantee of the actual improvement, of this pathway simply isn't there.

        But that will never stop the "Year of Linux!" dreamers, will it? They've been going on for YEARS. The Betty Ford clinic awaits them.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Great idea!

          In the netbook era I was tortured by people who bought 'one of them there netbooks' and wanted 'that there windows on'.

          This, despite Linpus on my own netbook being exceptionally quick, and perfectly acceptable to use, and all Linux distros able to load a browser for their inane facebook updates or youtube videos of cats.

    3. Nanki Poo

      Re: Great idea!

      I'm thinking the bastard child of Clippy and Siri . . .

      "You appear to have been having an affair and your partner has found out. Would you like to:

      - Look up florists

      - Look up lawyers"

      and tuts every two seconds if you don't answer.


  2. keithpeter Silver badge

    Maybe I'm still a little merry after New Year

    Before we all start...

    ...would it not be actually rather fun if this translated into a real thing I could walk into a phone shop and buy? Especially if you are in the UK....

    OK, you can start now.

  3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    What are they thinking/smoking?

    Do they really think that they can out do the all of the likes of Google, Apple and Microsoft. Well, ok maybe not the latter one after their latest releases. I would think that the inhabitants of the Chocolate Factory might have something to say about this (When they stop rolling around on the floor with laughter that is)

    As the article says they have met with a lot of opposition to their 'Unity' interface. Most of the people I know who were Ubuntu fans have deserted it for Debian, Mint and even gone into the RedHat camp.

    I guess this is another of Canonical's 'Grand Plans' to make money. I'd give them a 1.5 out of 10 chance of actually doing this.

    I will raise a glass to their efforts though

    1. g e

      Re: What are they thinking/smoking?

      I don't think they're trying to 'outdo' google or apple. What Canonical seem to be doing, quite cleverly, is recognising there's an existing Linux kernel available on the world's most prevalent Mobile OS and then leveraging that to make Ubuntu accessible to even more people and in a way that for some of them will make great sense.

      Stuff carrying a phone, laptop and a bloody tablet. Just carry the phone in your pocket and grab an HDMI dock for presentations.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. AceRimmer

        Re: What are they thinking/smoking?

        Sounds like a PadFone

      3. Joe K

        Re: What are they thinking/smoking?

        It doesn't matter how well they do this, or how good it works, all it will take is one update from Google to kill this off instantly.

        All they need to do is make Android do TV/VGA out through a dock, so turning it into a mobile Chromebook, at the very least. Some would say that Android can already do this, as the new HDMI Android stickcomputers prove, simply pair it up with a bluetooth mouse/KB, some apps to allow access to the underlying system/cmd line, and its a fairly functional computer already.

      4. hewbass

        Re: What are they thinking/smoking?

        You don't need an HDMI dock to drop your phone into; just a networked projector-- then push the display from the phone to the projector. All the pieces are already in place (X, etc.) to be able to do this...

        Then you can keep the your phone in your hand to use as a remote and for viewing the notes for the presenter.

    2. Fred Tourette

      Re: What are they thinking/smoking?

      Count me as one of those straight Ubuntu users who is taking Mint for a spin (and liking it) after being subjected to Unity. Leave it to Canonical to jump into the phone arena with a product that its own users don't like.

    3. Mark .

      Re: What are they thinking/smoking?

      I'm still waiting for someone to make this: .

      That webpage doesn't appear to be for the actual product, but a plea for anyone wanting to make it - and as far as I can tell, no one has. Which is rather sad - whilst perhaps a bit of a niche usage, this would give a great edge to a smartphone, and could see Ubuntu see a far greater audience. It would be the only phone/operating system capable of doing it. Some have suggested that in ten years' time, our computers will be our phones that we just connect to a larger screen and keyboard when required - it's sad to think that the technology could exist now, but nobody wants to market it.

  4. mark l 2 Silver badge

    It sounds like a good option if you can install it along side Android on a phone so you can boot into Ubuntu for when Ubuntu would be better than Android but the lack of apps means i doubt its ever going to make for the only OS i would run on a phone.

    1. andreas koch

      @ mark l 2 -


      lack of apps



      tl/dr: lack of useless apps


      OK. I've got to out myself on the other side of the public opinion here: I would welcome this.

      I tried the first Unity interface and hated it and it went after 2 days. 3 months later I tried again and still hated it and replaced it with xfce. When 12.04 came around I thought "wait, give it a real chance, man, you hated Windows 95 too and it was quite usable in the end" and promised to keep it at least 4 weeks on my everyday laptop. And I started to hate it less. It's different, OK. But not inferior; and some things actually work better for me using Unity. I now think it's rather nice. I find it less confusing and more intuitive than going from any other, essentially still "Xerox Star"-like, GUI to The-Interface-Formerly-Known-As-Metro of Windows 8. I do understand that a lot of people dislike it big time, but I think that it's actually a "change dislike", not something specific. I'm breaking a lance here for Unity; give it a real try.

      Oh, and by the way: The Amazon search integration i s pants, but as it's possible to turn it off I don't see the problem! We're all doing the same thing when we install a new Windows on a PC: If we don't scrap IE altogether, we go through the settings and nail up the holes. Same thing, I think.

      But back to mark's comment about the lack of apps.

      Yes, you are right. there will be less apps on Ubuntu mobile. Techland once counted the number of "fart" apps in the Apple AppStore and came up with over 1100 (!), all of which will be missing from Ubuntu mobile (I can live with that.). And just how many "I can drink beer/ latte/ wine/ whatever-it-is-that-Bear-Grylls-drinks with my iPhone"-Apps does one really need? Some of the more popular time-and-byte-wasters might even be ported, I'm thinking of the likes of Angry Birds here. While it's not useful, it's at least mildly amusing.

      Other than that it would run stuff from the Ubuntu software repository, which is not bad at all for useful stuff (and most of the useful stuff even for free). And that would make it better than Windows RT, which does not offer the same compatibility to it's desktop equivalent.

      Just, as always, my own personal opinion on this; feel free to disagree, but try to keep an open mind about it . . .

      If you find any typos, you can keep them, cheers.

    2. Greg J Preece

      the lack of apps means i doubt its ever going to make for the only OS i would run on a phone.

      Lack of apps?? Are you out of your tree??

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Lack of apps

        Yes, lack of apps. Or do you think that all the Linux apps that expect a keyboard and mouse will work just fine on a touchscreen? If that was true, Microsoft's previous tablet efforts from a decade ago would have succeeded.

        1. andreas koch
          Thumb Up

          @ DougS - Re: Lack of apps


          Or do you think that all the Linux apps that expect a keyboard and mouse will work just fine on a touchscreen?


          Yes, actually.

        2. Mystic Megabyte

          Re: Lack of apps

          Watch the two videos here:

          You will notice that the HUD interface that Ubuntu has been developing will allow applications to work, even using voice recognition.

          Anyway it looks good to me and I'm not interested in fart apps etc.

        3. Mark .

          Re: Lack of apps

          The bigger failure is that the technology hasn't existed to put a full x86 PC into a light tablet, so the "tablets" were large and heavy. The "tablets" we see today are really just renamed media players or oversized smartphones that have been around for years.

          With the Windows 8 tablets, the technology to make a small full x86 PC may now be here, though even so, it's with compromises (poorer battery life, still heavier than ARM devices - Clover Trail devices fix that, but then you don't get the processing power of Intel Core, so it's more like ARM in that respect too).

          That, and the fact that only one company got vast amounts of free advertising for their large phone, sorry, tablet, even before it was officially announced - which is why Android 10" tablets have struggled, too, nobody knows about them.

  5. frank ly

    As a matter of relevant interest ....

    ... how does the 'computing and graphics power' of a modern high end Android phone compare to a similarly priced laptop? Going one better, take an Android smartphone plus a mouse and keyboard and LCD monitor, then compare with a laptop of equivalent total price. How would that 'computing and graphics power' compare?

    1. andreas koch

      @ frank ly - Re: As a matter of relevant interest ....

      I think the laptop will be a lot more powerful on floating point performance, and still a good bit better on integer. The graphics will not be up to too much on a smartphone, but still enough to run video in a good resolution.

      Ever tried a RaspberryPi? Plenty powerful enough for office tasks and a bit of homework and research, even enough for a bit of entertainment. And that is powered by a single core ARM @ 700 MHz.

      I think that a modern high-end smart-phone (think of a quad-core system @ 1.3 GHz like the LG Google Nexus 4) is plenty powerful enough to work with as long as you're not expecting to replace your CAD workstation with a mobile.

      But you wouldn't use a Range Rover to take your kid 1500 yards to school . . .



      1. csumpi

        Re: @ frank ly - As a matter of relevant interest ....

        "Ever tried a RaspberryPi? Plenty powerful enough for office tasks and a bit of homework and research, even enough for a bit of entertainment. And that is powered by a single core ARM @ 700 MHz."

        Yes, I have. It's absolutely useless in a desktop environment, and especially for office work and web browsing. If you said command line python tutorial, maybe.

        My cell phone on the other hand, with a decent dual processor and quadruple memory with an OS designed for it can actually run a web browsing. But for office work? Not really.

        1. Richard Plinston

          Re: @ frank ly - As a matter of relevant interest ....

          > But for office work? Not really.

          How high a percentage of CPU idle do you want while it waits for key strokes ?

          Linux machines typically run at single digit utilization running typical office tasks. But then they don't have Norton's chewing up every CPU cycle that it can grab.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @ frank ly - As a matter of relevant interest ....

          6Mhz is enough for word processing - so the RasPi is more than ample :)

      2. Sir Codington

        Re: @ frank ly - As a matter of relevant interest ....

        I have two raspberry pis. They work fine for XMBC but the Rasbian desktop is slow as hell and the midori browser doesn't support video.

        Good luck getting homework done when it takes an age to get wikipedia up or watch a youtube video. When the accelerate the X server graphically I expect this to change but as is you CANNOT use one as a desktop computer. They make AWESOME servers though.

        1. Lamont Cranston

          @Sir Codington

          Thanks for posting this. I set up my RPi at the weekend, and was worried that I was doing something wrong (Class4 SD card not fast enough, for example). Will probably be experimenting with some alternate OS builds, and looking forward to learning as I go (my Linux knowledge pretty much fits in a thimble, at present).

  6. Steve Crook

    Nice try, probably no cigar

    If there's something between a niche and nothing at all, then that's the market share that this will have unless Ubuntu manages to conjure a fully formed and very well stocked app store at launch. Happy to be proved wrong, but atm this just has FAIL written all the way through it.

    1. B Candler Silver badge

      Re: Nice try, probably no cigar

      Or an Android emulation layer, so you can run stock Android apps.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Nice try, probably no cigar

        Yeah, I re-read the article looking foe mention of that, but couldn't see it. If an Ubuntu phone could pretend to be an Android phone, then some people would buy it- or at least not reject it if their company hands it out to them. Technically, how difficult would it be to have this running smoothly?

  7. railroadmanuk

    A leap forward?

    Not entirely convinced by this but good on Canonical for giving it a go, with the uptake of VDI this could be the start of something great...or just a flop

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A leap forward?

      "Not entirely convinced by this but good on Canonical for giving it a go, with the uptake of VDI this could be the start of something great"

      The start of something great would be welcomed. But 'great' and 'Ubuntu' really don't sit comfortably in the same sentence.

  8. mrmond

    Hasn't it been done ?

    Am I wrong in thinking they already tried this with a dock a while back !

    I'm sure some were getting excited about it.

    1. Greg J Preece

      Re: Hasn't it been done ?

      That was a thing they made that installed Ubuntu inside Android. You docked the phone and it fired up Ubuntu. It was a precursor to this that they demo'd at last year's World Mobile Congress. Even back then they were talking about this full replacement OS. Glad to see it finally arrive.

    2. FreeTard

      Re: Hasn't it been done ?

      Indeed.... Meego...

      $ uname -a

      Linux Nokia-N900 2.6.28-omap1 #1 PREEMPT Fri Aug 6 11:50:00 EEST 2010 armv7l unknown

      1. pepper

        Re: Hasn't it been done ?

        That isnt Meego, its Maemo 1.3 Fremantle. Meego is the merger between Maemo and Tizen on the N9.

        Disclaimer: I have the N900, got the same string except the date is Aug 8 for me.

        1. Mark .

          Re: Hasn't it been done ?

          You mean Maemo and Moblin - Tizen is a newer OS that in turn is meant to be a successor to Meego.

          1. pepper

            Re: Hasn't it been done ?

            You are correct, what a fool I am...

            To be fair, there seems to be a few projects that have sprung up around Meego(Sailfish from Jolla, Mer etc).

    3. Tim Starling


      Ubuntu for Android was just demonstrated, not completed. Canonical wanted phone manufacturers to buy support and trademark licenses from them.

      I guess that never happened since nothing was announced in almost a year, and no source code ever released.

      This new "Ubuntu for phones" seems to be the same kind of arrangement, except that they have reimplemented more of the stack. The blog post does not say that any manufacturers have signed up, only that Canonical is "ready to start working with partners".

      If the image The Register used to illustrate this article looks familiar, it's because it's actually the same image used to promote Ubuntu for Android last February.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Anything but Unity

    I've been thinking of this for a while, I've got a Nexus 7 that works fine with an ancient full sized Trust wireless keyboard and mouse, I've got a nice piece of marble that would make a great docking station, all I'm waiting for is a cheap Push2TV clone so I can plug it into the 40 inch tv in the living room. When I come in I could drop the Nexus into the dock and use the keyboard/mouse on the coffee table, when I go I just pick up the Nexus and it's a charged up standalone tablet again.

    I won't be using Unity though (it's awful), I'm in the process of moving the family computers away from Ubuntu, I haven't yet decided on Mint or Bodhi (Bodhi is looking good cuz it still fits on a CD)

    1. taxman

      Re: Anything but Unity

      Odd you mention the BBC says 'The code will initially be released as a file which can be installed on Samsung's Galaxy Nexus phone, replacing Android'.

      Are El Reg staff still suffering the joys of the New Year with their news of 'The company did not say which device makers or carriers it has partnered with to date, nor which global markets it will try to crack first.'

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Anything but Unity

        I appreciate the article is about Ubuntu (with Unity) on Android phones, my use of Android has been with tablets (2 x Nexus 7's running JellyBean and a cheap clone running ICS for the kids), the missus has an S2 which she uses for FB. My phone is a pink Sony W200I :)

        I want a tablet to act as a handheld computer when I'm out and about but when I'm at home I want it to be either my desktop (ie TV as monitor and proper keyboard/mouse) or as a wireless games controller (again using the TV as display, you could overlay all the controls you have for a PC game onto the tablet, much better than the limited PS3 type controller)

        The 7inch form factor is brilliant for a PC

        (a phone is just an app that runs on my mobile PC, Skype started on the desktop)

      2. andreas koch

        @ taxman - Re: Anything but Unity

        The BBC says. . .

        Mr. Kelion, who wrote that BBC article must be a close relative to amanfrommars here on the forum, scoring -1 out of 10 for understanding and 11 out of 10 for randomly rehashing quotes.

        I don't think that there was much comprehension involved about any differences between the 'nexus' range of devices, the 'Galaxy' model name or the 'Samsung' brand.

        'Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone' probably came up first on a Google search because it has all the popular buzzword names in it.

        1. BigG

          Re: @ taxman - Anything but Unity

          The pictured phone in the bbc article looks very much like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus I have in front of me now - a device I am perfectly happy with.

          @Andreas, I'm not sure if you are suggesting the phone doesn't exist, or that there is no evidence of which devices are proposed other than the Canonical supplied photo.

          1. andreas koch
            IT Angle

            @ BigG - Re: @ taxman - Anything but Unity

            Oh, the phone does exist alright, and it would be surprising if the OS would be restricted to just one model.

            What I was trying to say is that Mr. Kelion did not have a lot of content apart from quotes in this article and that even these quotes are knocked together quite randomly. A few statements show more misunderstanding than understanding and some remarks are just wrong.

            It reads like an 'F' homework essay where the task was to write something about smartphones and it was done between cornflakes and toothbrushing in the morning, using buzzwords and cut-'n'-paste.

            Just my personal impression; I'm sure he's really a very nice, learned guy.


    2. Alan_Peery

      Re: Anything but Unity

      And I'd add this Android software to your list of hardware :-)

      * AIDE -- Full Android IDE for on-tablet development

      * Terminal IDE -- for a busy-box Linux implmentation

      * DroidEdit -- for an editing GUI that can issue commands via SSH

  10. Jason Hindle

    Well paint me cynical......

    I call fail on this one. Getting a new mobile OS off the ground is going to be bloody hard at the moment. As it stands, Android and iOS devices have a way of embedding themselves into the fabric of the lives of their users unlike pretty much anything mobile that came before them. That's down to usability of the devices and an app for anything. To compete, any new OS entrant has to be able to achieve that in no time flat (Microsoft's mistake appears to have been thinking Twitter and Facebook integration out of the box would be good enough).

  11. cmp
    Thumb Up

    Looks nice

    Unity on phone actually looks like it might be a pretty nice interface. Its hard to tell without using it obviously but with a small screen and all apps running full screen I think many of the things people complain about will either go away or just make more sense, and at least no one will be able to bitch about how much they prefered gnome 2 on their smart phone. Couple that with decent hardware and they could have something significantly better then android on their hands.

    Of course the history of computing is littered with things that were better then their rivals but still not "better" enough to be worth switching for.

    This will be an interesting one to watch.

  12. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    "the company says should make it immediately familiar to anyone who has used Ubuntu before."

    No it won't be. Why? Because a lot of people who have used Ubuntu before dumped Ubuntu when they started dicking about with the user interface. I did, and I know a lot of others who did.

    Ubuntu was going to be a major player in the desktop market. Never happened.

    Then it was going to be a major player in the netbook market. Never happened.

    Then it was going to be a major player in the tablet market. Never happened.

    Now they're saying the same about phones are they? Yawn.

    1. Dana W

      Exactly. I was dual booting Ubuntu on my Macs before Gnome 3 and Unity ruined it.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Using it as a THIN CLIENT?!

    What a revolutionary idea. I mean... wow.

    Seriously, Ubuntu Guys, if the best you can do for a differentiator is remote desktop then you're in for a shock- I've been indoctrinating our techs (and even some managers... slowly) in using 'proper' computers over RD for years. If anything being able to use Windows remotely utterly removes the need for Ubuntu; you'd want the slimmest back-end possible not some overblown Desktop OS.

    And not including a JVM seems daft, surely it'd be a better idea to have an Android compatible JVM so you've immediately got a trillion *user-friendly* apps out there- along with the benefits of all those extra developers? I can run (some) Android apps on Windows now, so getting it working on Linux should be pretty simple.

    Meh, whatever. It'll be the Next Big Thing in mobile for the next few years and then be forgotten like on the desktop.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah, it's all clear now

    It has been a puzzle that Canonical didn't seem to mind that their traditional supporters hated Unity and thought the Amazon integration was ludicrous. But port it onto a smartphone and it all makes sense - the target audience is totally different, being mainly consumption-oriented (hence profitable).

    Well, it's a plan of sorts, so good luck to them.

  15. Greg J Preece

    Amazed at the amount of negativity aimed at this. Personally, I've been waiting for Linux to make its way back onto the mobile, and this is a great step from where I'm sat. For years, my friends and I have been convinced that computing will eventually end up as a "core" device that you plug into different shells depending on the task you're doing. That core device is likely to be a phone, that you then dock to form a desktop, or slide into a tablet shell, etc, etc. The shells might augment its functionality, or provide things like dedicated graphics card, etc. This is, like the Motorola Atrix and others before it, a step in that direction. If you can't figure out why having your phone and desktop be literally the same device has advantages, I don't want what you're smoking.

    Either way, I'm glad to see this released. I'm going to be emigrating soon and having something like this would be perfect to get a low-cost desktop running in my new place, as well as giving me something resembling an upgrade path from my N900. Android might be pretty, but its not suitable for what I do. iOS is miles off, Jolla and Tizen have yet to raise their heads, and there's little else to get excited about from a tech standpoint.

    And would you lot please realise that Unity's going to make ten times more sense on a mobile than GNOME ever would? I'm not that fond of GNOME on the desktop, but on mobile? That said, I'd love to see a KDE/Plasma variant of this. I saw a demo of a Plasma-based tablet interface last year and it was gorgeous.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    1. Tommy Pock

      Re: Ubuntu for phones ..

      Bizarre. All the related videos are car crashes(!)

      1. dogged

        Re: Ubuntu for phones ..

        all the related videos are car crashes

        Perhaps the owners of Youtube are not enthusiastic about a competing mobile OS?

    2. mhenriday

      Re: Ubuntu for phones ..

      I found this 22 minute-long video of great interest - but one might be advised to hop over the first five minutes, in which Mr Shuttleworth tells us, over and over and over again, how wonderful the Unity interface is on desktops (declaration: I abhor Unity, but like Ubuntu, which is why I use the Cinnamon desktop environment on my Ubuntu 12.04 and 12.10 boxes). In any event, Ubuntu certainly seems worth a try on mobile phones - it seems to offer quite a few excellent solutions to interface problems on the format ! Hope the Reg will folllow up with a review !...


  17. This post has been deleted by its author

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe a nice Plasma interface could help.

    I would certainly rather run a real Linux distro with a real package manager than some Android thing. I don't care if it's not main stream or if it never sells or if no manufactures adopt it. As long as I can get it onto the device and all the components and power management work well, I happy. Actually, I'd prefer it if it never went mainstream. That's the problem with Ubuntu. It's too mainstream. I know what you are thinking. However, Ubuntu is too mainstream for me. That's why you have this Amazon BS and the Gnome BS. Yawn.

  19. Longtemps, je me suis couche de bonne heure

    This is an excellent idea

    Because most other providers aren't interested in providing a PC replacement component to their smart phones (since the Atrix, Photon etc no longer seem to allow it) - and if Ubtuntu proves it to be a serious option, then others will jump on board, and it means I won't have to buy PCs anymore - my phone will replace my work PC once I attach it to a mouse/keyboard/screen.

    Indeed, with those mini-projectors (to replace the need for a screen) and workable voice recognition to replace the keyboard, you could get away with just using the phone in the long run.

    1. P. Lee

      Re: This is an excellent idea

      I think I'd have gone for "android+normal linux environment" to make this work.

      I have to agree that a thin client is a fine idea - there's no hope of making a fat client from a phone at the moment. However, an X11-type system of running remote apps (where necessary) would be fine, allowing me to mix & match remote CPUs to requirements while taking my desktop environment with me.

      I don't particularly want to use the phone on its own - the screen is too small, but I'd be happy to nfc pair to a wireless big screen (cool) or wired screen (more practical) and wireless keyboard/mouse.

      I *presume* canonical have learnt from MS' mistakes in assuming that desktop apps can just be run on a smaller screen.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If this be true, then no need to satisfy in rooting phones...

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Great another company can get everyone hyped about HTML5 and then disappoint as there is no JVM to run real apps when the HTML5 ones fail to perform.

    Im no HTML5 hater, but like every other version of HTML before it, it is long in coming (literally years) and then a fragmented, industry dodge ball as each big player tries to make it proprietary.

    Native apps will never be 100% replaced by interpreted apps and there will never be one approach.

    Overall though, having Ubuntu come into the mobile market so that i can have the same dull sys-admin tasks on my phone that i hate on my desktop is not that pleasing. I can't wait for searching the internet for a community driver so my phone will actually do POTS calls.

    Poorly flashed S2s that crash alot are already part of many people's lives (whom i know).

    Wake me when its over.

    1. Greg J Preece

      Re: HTML5

      Um....who's tried to make HTML5 proprietary? Because they haven't done a very good job of it.

    2. Bruno Girin

      Re: HTML5

      Did you actually RTFA? They explicitly say you can either write HTML5 apps or native apps (using QML). So you can definitely run real apps. In practice you are not even limited to HTML5 and QML, you could write apps in any language that compiles on Linux and that you can package in a .deb (quite a few of them).

  22. csumpi

    sed 's/canonical/microsoft/g' | sed 's/ubuntu/windows 8/g' | sed 's/jane silber/steve ballmer/g'

    oh my god! write once, publish twice! the writer should get double pay for this one!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On the PC the unity interface sucks.... totally.

    But on the mobile phones, I think it might be quite good.

  24. RyokuMas

    Am I seeing things?

    "Microsoft is widely believed to have a good shot at developing a third major smartphone ecosystem"

    OK, own up. Who's hacked el Reg? They'd never put a phrase like this in an article...

  25. Robert E A Harvey

    I want one

    I want one now!

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ubuntu ???

    Oh yes... I remember that! That's the one that used to be the number 1 distro, years ago before they totally lost the plot...

    1. Greg J Preece

      Re: Ubuntu ???

      In some ways and not others. The base OS is still great, and it offers some user-friendly front-end stuff that many other distros don't come near. Everyone just threw their toys out of the pram over Unity, and you can see from the posts on this article that people are still acting like children about it, when all that's necessary is to install Kubuntu instead. All the upsides, few of the downs.

  27. Mystic Megabyte

    For all the Unity haters above

    If you watch the videos you might change your mind, it looks pretty good to me.

    Ubuntu for phones - Trailer

    Ubuntu for phones - Industry proposition (from 6:30 if you just want to see how the interface works)

  28. Teiwaz

    Sounds a neat idea, but...

    Hey, this sounds good.. Canonical already has an app store in the shape of the software centre - some work needed here, it runs like an elephant in a telephone box on my Acer Aspire One netbook (which I am using plugged into an externat monitor and usb hub to provide ext HDDs, bluetooth keyboard and mouse so I am (almost) already there)

    There are always issues with apps that must run on radically different screen sizes though, I've still got problems with system apps (like control center) which pop up on my screen too big for the screen resolution (1024x600) resulting in ok and cancel buttons off the screen whats that going to be like on a much smaller screen. There's also a bug in the 12.10 Lightdm which results in the wm list dropping off the screen.

    Priced right on a range of different handsets in different price brackets and good advertising it might just get a foot in the door. I certainly hope they can pull it off.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Given that Android is Linux plus an application set, this isn't as new as it seems, but it shows that there are possibilities other than just taking Google's application set or the highway.

    I agree with the others here who think this explains a lot about Canonical's apparently pathological devotion to the Unity front-end. If they had released Unity as a "click here to have a preview of our upcoming mobile desktop" instead of making it the default on everything I think they would have saved themselves a lot of grief and market-share.

  30. b166er

    I like the idea of your personal computer (for work and play) living in your pocket and being considered as your main form of communication.

    This make sense because people are less likely to lose their phone than any other gadget because they know they can rely on it's communication ability in an emergency and like to remain contactable by friends and relatives.

    As long as data storage remains on this device and/or some cloud somewhere, then data loss and theft can be kept to a minimum.

    I will be interesting to see if this class of smartphone can be clustered with a large tablet device (or Smart TV for example) for use in a 'docking station' style scenario. You could use the already quite powerful smartphone's CPU/GPU/APU, in tandem with the CPU/GPU/APU in a tablet to produce a realistic desktop experience when docked.

    Just keep the data off the tablet.

    It would be awesome if there could be a standard similar to DLNA for pairing a smartphone with a large format display device designed to augment the smartphone. This could be incorporated into all display devices. In fact all devices, imagine being able to fire up the XBOX too and have it contribute its processing power as well.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ubuntu = FAIL

    Ubuntu 10.0 and the accompanying Grub deleted my PC's MBR. Then they evilly defaulted to sending everything to Amazon. Pretty bad - file under No Thanks.

    1. Tommy Pock

      Re: Ubuntu = FAIL

      Red Hat did that to mine once. I was only able to install Red Hat and, for some reason, Suse. No other distros would install, neither would Windows. Formatting didn't help either. A bootable Disk Director Suite CD did the job for me in the end

    2. Greg J Preece

      Re: Ubuntu = FAIL

      I'm calling troll. If it deleted your MBR, that's most likely because you told it to install in the MBR.

      And if that was Ubuntu 10.04 (10.0 isn't a real version number) then it didn't include the Amazon stuff. That only came in much later.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Ubuntu = FAIL

        Yeah, after deleting my Ubuntu partition in order to expand my Windows partition, Window wouldn't boot. No great stress, since there was another Win7 machine in the building, and I just got it to burn a repair disk. No worries.

        It wasn't Ubuntu's fault, it was my mistake. But hey, that's how I learn.

  32. HeyMickey
    Paris Hilton

    Because it uses the same device drivers as Android - Accelerated X?

    Does this mean that Canonical have written an accelerated X server which runs on top of a generic OpenGL ES stack? Or are they just expecting everyone to put up with framebuffer X?

  33. Mark .

    "Android and iOS dominate the smartphone market, with a number of smaller players squabbling for third place."

    I wonder why this two-OS myth has to continue - at 75% share, the more accurate description would be "Android dominates, with a number of smaller players squabbling for second place".

    Consider that the gap between WP (or whatever else) and iphone is far smaller than the gap between iphone and Android, whether looked at in relative terms, or absolute numbers.

    (The only time there's been a two-OS market was when it was Symbian and Android; iphone only became second place when Symbian was ditched by Nokia.)

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge


      "Dominate" is a little ambiguous. It could refer to volume, as you take it to be, or it could at a stretch refer to profit.

      If one were talking about phone sales, you could say Samsung and Nokia dominate the phone market.

  34. cmp

    Reading between the lines

    Given the many really obvious reasons why this is a really dumb idea (no app store, the need for hardware manufacturers to buy in, the 800lb gorillas of android and IOS, the patent minefield of the mobile sector etc), I can see two possibilities

    1) Shuttleworth has decided he doesn't like being rich and is looking to go down in a blaze glory

    2) Theres more to this then they've announced.

    Its pretty clear that some hardware manufactures are worried by the level of control Google has over their software sack, plus the purchase of one of their major competitors (Motorola), that everybody and their dog produce almost identical android phones, and they need a way of differentiating themselves from the android masses. So I'm guessing that Cannonical have someone like Samsung on board already. Or possibly Samsung have Cannonical on board.

    Cannonical have been doing custom engineering for hardware companies for years so It wouldn't surprise me at all to find the roots of this are Samsung approaching Cannonical about producing an android rival.

    It would explain why they seem so confident in the 2014 date for hardware, and why such a small company with no reputation amongst the all important carriers, and no budget to buy into the market feels able to take on the near limitless resources, "household name" status', and industry connections of google/apple/microsoft/RIM.

  35. Christian Berger

    The main question is...

    Will they be able to break the "hardware/software" lock in? Will they be able to create a system that can be updated and installed without any vendor intervention? This is about more than just software. This would also mean that there had to be common bootloaders and certain features in "ROM". Maybe it would even mean booting the operating system from SD-card.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    Unity: the game plan was phones?

    Is that what it was all about? Get them used to Unity then we'll launch the phones?

    As a marketing plan, I can see managers buying it, but if it was what they intended then it has backfired, because, for a lot of people, Unity is don't-like. It might be great on a phone/tablet. It might be more popular if they had launched it there.

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: Unity: the game plan was phones?

      I'd be interested to know how many REAL unity haters there are out there. As with everything, haters have the loudest voices, and personally, I quite like Unity, and this concept (which I've been talking about for two years) is one I have been waiting for . Phone during the day, desktop at night. The faster multi core Arms are getting there, the mobile GPU's are pretty damn fast, and the power consumption is tiny compared to a desktop.

      Of course, devs and others will still need more powerful machines, but for the vast majority, even the current gen smartphones are over spec'ed for their requirements.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Unity: the game plan was phones?

        The problem was never Unity.

        The problem was trying to impose a complete change of desktop model. That sort of stuff should be there as a choice, not a major shift in the mainstream.

        That the interface model seems (as does MS's latest) to be designed with touch devices in mind, and not the monitors that are still on the majority of desktops, is secondary.

        Yes, there's a chance that, with a change of that sort, people are going to go, "It's new ...and it's what I've been waiting for all my life," but there is also a chance that they won't.

        All human interface designers should think more about the humans and less about the interfaces. That is why Mint is growing. Ubuntu may be bigger, it may remain bigger, but they should learn that lesson. As, of course, should Microsoft.

  37. thalass

    A Linux-based OS that can run regular programs? If they produce a handset with a hardware keyboard i'll have my beloved N900 again!

    A galaxy note type device with a hardware keyboard and this OS and i'll be set.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What is Linux?

    Is it like Windows?.....

    Downvote this all you like, Linux will never become mainstream outside of embedded systems / appliances

    I personally don't find Linux very appealing, I'm a programmer and gamer.... I prefer to use Visual Studio for programming and windows is best for gaming by far - even if Gabe pulls off this steam polava!

  39. 1Rafayal

    Ahhh, now Unity makes sense to me...

  40. Nick De Plume


    To begin: I like GNU/Linux, and I do have a machine running it. It is my tinkertoy for some time, at least until I get around to ordering a Raspberry Pi. I also have an elderly laptop running XBMCbuntu, but that doesn't really count, being an appliance after all. But I still do my work on Windows. It is more reliable, has better drivers and has a much better selection of professional software (I do VFX).

    Anyway. Linux has yet again failed to take up the world by storm - and I seriously doubt shoehorning a desktop/touch interface onto a handset will improve its marketshare.

    Also, it has toothier competition:

    WebOS was beautiful and wonderful - but it's not around anymore, not really. Meego was also mighty fine, but it was pretty much stillborn (outside the few still-faithful). Even ye mighty Microsoft is fighting tooth and nail for relevancy (I think WP7/8 interface is very sleek, with few downsides)

    Ubuntuphone? Let's wait and see.

  41. tuxtester

    How long will it take for 'Ubuntu for Mobile' to be considered a slick alternative to Android?

    How long will it take for 'Ubuntu for Mobile' to be considered a slick alternative to Android?


    It wasn't until version 2.3 of Android that it became a half-decent user experience, which was about 4 years after Google-Android's first appearance on mobile devices.

    Mobile technology will change considerably in the next 4 years, by which time Ubuntu may have the right-stuff to be a contender but not in the immediate future.

    Regarding the docking of mobile devices: The problem will be theft of device and data and 'Oh **** !! I left my device docked in that cyber cafe'.

    Most people wont do it for these two simple reasons.

    Docking your computer on a public docking station is an invitation to skimmers. Skimmers will put bogus docking stations in place that will copy all of a mobile device's data and (worse) copy keyboard input.

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