Ubuntu Plans Move to Smartphones, Tablets, TVs

Ubuntu will eventually run on mobile devices including smartphones, tablets, TVs, vehicle smart screens and kitchen appliances, promised Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth.

Canonical is planning on throwing its hat in the increasingly crowded mobile operating system space, according to the company's founder.

Ubuntu will power tablets, phones, TVs and smart screens by 2014, Ubuntu's founder and Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth wrote on his blog Oct. 31. The desktop interface in the latest version of Ubuntu released this month, Ubuntu 11.10, "was designed with this specific vision in mind," Shuttleworth said.

"By 14.04 LTS Ubuntu will power tablets, phones, TVs and smart screens from the car to the office kitchen, and it will connect those devices cleanly and seamlessly to the desktop, the server and the cloud," he wrote. Canonical expects this long-term support version of Ubuntu will be ready to hit the market in April of 2014.

Unity is intended to provide a single core interface framework that scales across all screens and supports all toolkits, according to Shuttleworth. The investments Canonical has made on interfaces would translate well to touch-screen scenarios, and "with a little love and attention, will work equally well in mouse, keyboard or stylus-driven environments," Shuttleworth wrote, adding that there will be no screen size restrictions for Ubuntu.

"We will see our work on the Ubuntu platform land in a variety of formats current and yet to be invented," he wrote.

Along with regular updates to the Ubuntu operating system twice a year, Canonical releases long-term-support versions of its server and desktop versions of the Ubuntu operating system, which are supported for five and three years, respectively. Canonical released version 11.10 earlier this month, with the Unity desktop as the default interface. The next release, Ubuntu 12.04, will be the first LTS version to have the new Unity desktop interface.

There is a lot of competition, including Apple's iOS, Google's Android OS and even Microsoft's Windows Phone 7. Research In Motion will still be trying to compete, and Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 will feature both a desktop interface and the company's mobile Metro UI. Even so, Shuttleworth sees possibilities because most users are no longer "exclusively loyal" to a single technology provider and are willing to run a "diverse" set of devices running various operating systems to get online.

"There is no winner in place yet. This opportunity remains wide open, but only to products that deliver excellent experiences for users, across a full range of device categories," Shuttleworth wrote.

Shuttleworth said the "storage, syncing and sharing capabilities" of the Ubuntu One personal cloud service are "not just a convenience but a requirement" as users increasingly share content and use diverse devices, perhaps as a reference to Apple launching the iCloud service. Ubuntu One's support for other operating systems shows "the ability of Ubuntu to play nice with others," he said.

Noting that Canonical has good relationships with Intel, Advanced Micro Devices and ARM, which will make chipsets that will power future devices, and with PC and device manufacturers such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Asus, Lenovo, Acer and IBM, Ubuntu is well-poised for the market, he said. Canonical will have to "provide the heavy lifting" to get in the ballgame, but there will be opportunities for the broader community to get involved, according to Shuttleworth.

"We are determined to bring more free software to more people around the world and building that future hand in hand with device manufacturers is the best way to do it," he wrote.

More details will be released at the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Orlando, Fla., from Oct. 31 to Nov. 4.