Feb 22, 2012
Android may be a Linux-based OS, and a very powerful mobile operating system that can perform a lot of computer tasks, but it’s still a secondary device to a computer. Canonical, developers of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, want to bring Ubuntu to Android smartphones, and have announced Ubuntu for Android to help get this done.
The requirements for an Ubuntu for Android device will include many phones released in the past year: 1 GHz dual-core processor, 512 MB of RAM, 2 GB of memory, along with HDMI output and a USB port. The idea appears to be to have it be something that will be a hybrid of both Android and Ubuntu, so users could simply dock their phone or plug in the required hardware and then boom, instant Ubuntu on a monitor. This is possible because Ubuntu for Android will use the same kernel as the Android build running on the device, making it possible for both experiences to exist side-by-side. So, when users use their phone, it will be a typical Android experience, but this will enable phone users to use their phones as a desktop when necessary. It will also integrate phone functions into the desktop OS, enabling users to read and write SMS messages and talk on the phone from the desktop.
This is a bold strategy, and one that will dramatically alter the phone experience, if not unify disparate experiences in one device. This could be extremely useful for tablets, as they are the typical victims of the gap between a mobile OS and a desktop OS â€“ the mobile experience and feature set can occasionally be limiting to what a desktop or laptop OS can do. Hypothetically, an Ubuntu for Android tablet could be used to type up reports while on the go in a coffee shop from an app like Documents to Go, then set up in the dekstop mode at the office to polish and finish it off using desktop Ubuntu apps.
The concern for modern phones potentially using Ubuntu for Android will be that there aren’t a lot of apps built for the ARM processors that currently power many Android devices. Intel x86 architecture is coming to Android, but is still something that is “in the future.” Still, this could be the niche that these devices could actually launch with â€“ the idea of a phone that is also seamlessly a desktop, and could run many Ubuntu applications on the desktop easily.
While this whole project is something that is just now getting off the ground, it appears as if Canonical wants to push this to phone manufacturers and carriers as well as the end user, becuase adoption of Ubuntu for Android will come more easily when it is something that the average user could go out and buy, instead of having to hack their phone to support.