This, folks, is Ubuntu on Android. An honest-to-goodness, not janky or VNC'd, full build of the Linux distro powered by an Android smartphone.
We'll let that sink in.
Canonical -- the company behind Ubuntu -- today announced that it's bringing the full Ubuntu experience to multi-core Android phones in the same way that Motorola has attempted to extend its hardware to a more traditional computing experience with Webtop. That is, you'll connect your phone to a keyboard and display, and from there have full control over a proper Ubuntu experience, all powered by the phone. Because your Android smartphone is already running a Linux kernel, the marriage between your phone and Ubuntu is darn near seamless. The Ubuntu build actually shares the kernel from your phone and boots in parallel.
Canonical gave us a walkthrough of the experience, and it really couldn't be more simple. Dock the phone, and Ubuntu Unity fires up. Photos and videos are instantly available in the desktop experience.
But photos and videos are chump change. You've got full Chromium and Thunderbird apps. VLC. The Ubuntu Music Player. If it's on Ubuntu, it can be on your phone.
But the real power is in the ability to launch your Android apps within that desktop experience. Same goes for contacts. Or your network settings. Or your notifications. It's Android within an Ubuntu experience. And it's pretty slick.
As for hardware requirements, you'll need a dual-core smartphone with at least a 1GHz processor and 512MB of RAM. You'll need 2GB of storage free as well, plus USB host mode and HDMI out (MHL adapters will work, Canonical tells us), plus video acceleration. Older phones need not apply, basically.
It's worth repeating that this is your phone powering Ubuntu -- not the Ubuntu desktop on your phone. We're going to get a close look at Mobile World Congress next week in Barcelona, Spain. Stay tuned. For now, we've got Canonical's full press release after the break.
Ubuntu for Android at MWC - world’s first full-featured desktop on a docked smartphone
Carry less, do a lot more. All the productivity and apps of the full Ubuntu desktop, built into your Android phone.
London, 22nd February, 2012: Canonical today unveiled Ubuntu for Android, bringing the world’s favourite free desktop experience to multi-core Android smartphones docked with a keyboard and monitor. Use Android on the phone and Ubuntu as your desktop, both running simultaneously on the same device, with seamless sharing of contacts, messages and other common services.
The phone experience is pure Android - it’s a normal Android phone. When the device is connected to a computer screen, however, it launches a full Ubuntu desktop on the computer display. It’s exactly the same desktop used by millions of enterprise and home users on their Ubuntu PCs, and includes hundreds of certified applications, from office productivity to photography, video and music.
All data and services are shared between the Ubuntu and Android environments, which run simultaneously on the device. So Android applications such as contacts, telephony and SMS/
MMS messaging are accessible from the Ubuntu interface. Indeed, all data on the smartphone can be accessed at any time, docked or not.
Ubuntu for Android gives mobile workers a company phone that is also their enterprise desktop. Government and private institutions have embraced Ubuntu on the desktop because of its ease of use, security, manageability, superb range of native applications and excellent support for web browsers like Chrome and Firefox. The desktop can also include Windows applications, using thin client and desktop virtualisation tools. Today’s IT departments commonly support a PC and at least one desktop phone for every employee. Many also provide and manage mobile phones. Ubuntu for Android presents a compelling solution to IT complexity by reducing that burden to a single device.
The first PC for the next billion knowledge workers could be a phone - but they won’t just want to use it as a handset. They will want all the flexibility and productivity of a full desktop, as well as the convenience of a smartphone on the move. Ubuntu for Android represents the first opportunity for handset makers and network operators to address this growth opportunity in emerging markets.
“The desktop is the killer-app for quad-core phones in 2012” says Mark Shuttleworth. “Ubuntu for Android transforms your high-end phone into your productive desktop, whenever you need it”
Manufacturers targeting the corporate phone, as well as the next-generation enterprise desktop and thin clients can easily add Ubuntu for Android to their smartphones. The customized version of Ubuntu drops in cleanly alongside the rest of Android, and the necessary Android modifications are designed for easy integration. Hardware requirements include support for HDMI and USB, standard features in high-end handsets planned for late 2012.
Ubuntu for Android justifies the cost to enterprise customers of upgrading to higher bandwidth 4G connections and contracts. Cloud apps like Google Docs work best with a full desktop, and shine with the lower latency of LTE. Network operators can deliver their own branded applications and services as part of the Ubuntu desktop, in partnership with Canonical.
Canonical leads the traditional Linux ecosystem in support for the ARM architecture, having co-founded Linaro (linaro.org), the consortium dedicated to the unification of Linux on ARM and the simplification of Android integration and delivery. That industrial experience, combined with Canonical’s long-standing leadership in desktop Linux and deep relationships with global PC brands enables Canonical to deliver an ARM-optimised desktop tightly integrated with Android, on silicon from a range of ARM vendors.
Useful Links and Contacts
- Product information and specifications at www.ubuntu.com/devices/android
- Contact us to bring Ubuntu for Android to market: www.ubuntu.com/devices/android/contact-us
Canonical engineering and open community governance drive Ubuntu’s success in client, server and cloud computing - including personal cloud services for consumers. Canonical’s vision of a unified free platform in Ubuntu, from phone to cloud, with a family of coherent interfaces for the phone, tablet, TV and desktop, makes Ubuntu the first choice for diverse institutions from public cloud providers to the makers of consumer electronics, and a favourite among individual technologists.
With developers and engineering centres around the world, Canonical is uniquely positioned to partner with hardware makers, content providers and software developers to bring Ubuntu solutions to market - from PCs to servers and handheld devices.