Canonical Launches Ubuntu Smartphone Interface

Canonical announced a new smartphone interface for its Ubuntu operating system, bringing the OS to the phone to complement its presence on the desktop, server and cloud.

In something of a departure from its traditional space, Canonical has announced a new smartphone interface for its popular operating system, Ubuntu. Canonical delivers a common OS for a series of platforms, including phone, server, cloud and more.

Canonical officials said Ubuntu gives handset OEMs and mobile operators the ability to converge phone, PC and thin client into a single enterprise "superphone."

Ubuntu is aimed at two core mobile segments: the high-end superphone and the entry-level basic smartphone. The goal is to help operators grow the use of data among consumers who typically use only the phone and messaging functions but who might embrace the Web and email on their phones. Ubuntu also appeals to aspirational "prosumers" who want a fresh experience with faster, richer performance on a lower bill-of-materials device, Canonical said.

"We expect Ubuntu to be popular in the enterprise market, enabling customers to provision a single secure device for all PC, thin client and phone functions. Ubuntu is already the most widely used Linux enterprise desktop, with customers in a wide range of sectors focused on security, cost and manageability," Jane Silber, CEO of Canonical, said in a statement. "We also see an opportunity in basic smartphones that are used for the phone, SMS [Short Message Service], Web and email, where Ubuntu outperforms, thanks to its native core apps and stylish presentation."

In addition, Canonical officials said Ubuntu offers several customization options for partner apps, content and services. Operators and OEMs can easily add their own branded offerings. Canonical's personal cloud service, Ubuntu One, provides storage and media services, file sharing and a secure transaction service, which enables partners to integrate their own service offerings easily, the company said.

Moreover, Canonical is making it easy to build phones with Ubuntu. The company provides engineering services to offload the complexity of maintaining multiple code bases, which has proven to be a common issue for smartphone manufacturers, freeing the manufacturer to focus on hardware design and integration. For silicon vendors, Ubuntu is compatible with a typical Android Board Support Package (BSP). This means Ubuntu is ready to run on the most cost-efficient chipset designs, the company said

In bringing Ubuntu to the phone, Canonical delivers a single operating system for client, server and cloud, and a unified family of interfaces for the phone, the PC and the TV. "We are defining a new era of convergence in technology, with one unified operating system that underpins cloud computing, data centers, PCs and consumer electronics," Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu and vice president of products at Canonical, said in a statement.

The handset interface for Ubuntu introduces the following user experiences to the mobile market:

  • edge magic in which thumb gestures from all four edges of the screen enable users to find content and switch between apps faster than other phones;
  • deep content immersion in which controls appear only when the user wants them;
  • global search for apps, content and products;
  • voice and text commands in any application for faster access to rich capabilities;
  • both native and Web or HTML5 apps; and
  • evolving personalized art on the welcome screen.

Canonical serves many leading PC OEMs, including Asus, Dell, HP and Lenovo, with Ubuntu. More than 20 million desktop PCs run the OS today, and Canonical estimates that close to 10 percent of the world's new desktops and laptops will ship with Ubuntu in 2014. Ubuntu is also wildly popular as a server platform, the number one server OS on the key major public clouds and the leading host OS for OpenStack, the open-source infrastructure as a service (IaaS) platform.