For most of the history of computing, the user experience has been defined and limited by the hardware form factor. Canonical, the lead sponsor of the Ubuntu Linux, is on a mission to create a converged platform where a single operating system is able to power a desktop or a phone and now a tablet.
Canonical today launched the BQ Aquarius M10 Ubuntu Edition, the first tablet hardware for Ubuntu Linux. Canonical has expanded its partnership with device vendor BQ, which has been building and shipping Ubuntu phones since February 2015.
“This particular announcement is about a tablet, but don’t take that as a sign that we’re out to win the tablet market,” Jane Silber, CEO of Canonical, told eWEEK. “It’s more a sign that we’re continuing to realize our vision of convergence.”
With the new BQ Aquarius M10 Ubuntu Edition tablet, users will get the benefits of a touch-screen interface as well as the optional capabilities to extend a desktop Ubuntu experience. With Ubuntu, there is a concept of having an adaptive display that will provide users with the appropriate interface based on the device type.
A side-stage interface is available on the tablet, Silber explained. So when a tablet is being used in landscape mode, there is a rectangular window on the right side where applications can be pinned. From the convergence perspective, when the tablet is connected to a mouse and keyboard, the interface shifts into a traditional Ubuntu desktop experience, including desktop applications like the LibreOffice office suite.
“This is the exact same codebase that is now shipping on phones,” Silber said. “So phone users have the same capabilities now, too.”
From an application development perspective, all the apps that work on a phone will work on the tablet, and desktop apps will be able to work on the tablet when running in desktop mode. Silber explained that responsive behavior for different device types is now built into the Ubuntu software developer kit (SDK) for apps, as well. As such, an application can render at the appropriate screen size, depending on whether the app is being run on a phone or a tablet.
With the Ubuntu phone, the device was only initially made available in Europe and has since expanded to India and Russia. With the Ubuntu Tablet, Silber said that from the outset it will be available globally, with sales starting in March.
As with existing Ubuntu phones, the new Ubuntu tablet will use hardware that is already employed to run Google’s Android mobile operating system. Silber emphasized that Canonical is not looking to develop purpose-built hardware that is custom-designed just for Ubuntu.
“Differentiation at the hardware level isn’t that interesting,” Silber said. “It doesn’t bother us to be shipping on the same hardware that Android is shipping on.”
More Ubuntu phones and tablets will come to market in the future, and there is a potential for other form-factor devices that might emerge, Silber said.
In the past, Canonical has discussed bringing Ubuntu to TVs. There has been interest in using the Ubuntu Core as an underlying operating system for a TV, Silber said. “We’ll be led by market demand and customer interest,” she said.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.