Linux Faces Major Revisions for Mobile, Consumer Devices

News Analysis: The Linux developer community is poised for a number of changes in 2011 that will revamp the open source operating system with new versions and interface changes for the latest mobile devices and set-top boxes.

With all the excitement surrounding Android and other open source projects like the MeeGo Linux-based mobile operating system project, the Linux open source operating system seems to be getting less attention these days.

Advocates have been predicting the "year of desktop Linux" almost ten years now, but this year's focus seems to be on how developers are updating Linux for today's mobile devices.

Linux will be making a play for the tablet market, competing with the wave of Android tablets, Apple's iPad, The BlackBerry PlayBook, the long-promised MeeGo, and the expected Microsoft Windows 7-based units this year. Some hints about a Linux tablet, long teased by Canonical as "coming in 2011," emerged in December from Taiwan-based TENQ.

As promised by Canonical earlier in 2010, the Ubuntu tablet from TENQ will run a derivative of Ubuntu 10.10, also known as Maverick Meerkat, which has been optimized for touch, according to GizChina, who had the exclusive images of the upcoming device.

The specifications for TENQ's P07 promise a 10.1-inch touch tablet with an Intel Atom 1.66 Ghz processor, 2 GB of RAM, and a 32 GB SSD hard drive. TENQ is also claiming to include HDMI and USB ports, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. It will also have a built-in webcam, a Micro SD card reader, and a "cover with built-in keyboard," according to reports.

There is a lot of potential for a Linux tablet, since there is no need for a separate App Store. The Ubuntu tablet would just extend the Linux desktop to yet another device. Canonical's Chris Kenyon, vice president of alliances and OEM services has said that the company had plans for pushing Ubuntu into automotive systems, tablets, set-top-boxes, and digital devices. Maverick Meerkat is being modified to improve its touch capabilities and the new Unity interface is supposed to simplify user experience on the tablet.

The shift to the Unity graphical user interface represents a dramatic shift for Linux desktop. Canonical sent shock waves through the Linux community in October when its founder, Mark Shuttleworth, announced that Ubuntu will abandon the X Window interface in favor of Wayland for its graphical stack, and that all future Ubuntu distributions will ship with a Unity interface by default. Ubuntu had the GNOME interface as the default in the desktop and laptop versions and the new Unity interface in the netbook version. Canonical decided that Unity represented the interfaces that users wanted to work on the latest Linux devices and applications, said Shuttleworth.