Canonical, the corporate backer of the popular Ubuntu desktop, brought in the new year by introducing its new Ubuntu for Phones platform. This new mobile offering hopes to be available come 2014 on entry-level handsets around the world.
Ubuntu is an open source desktop experience built on top of the Linux operating system. Ubuntu for Phones intends to bring this open ecosystem to the mobile space.
In a twenty minute video available on the Ubuntu website, Ubuntu Founder Mark Shuttleworth situates Ubuntu for Phones as part of Canonical's grand strategy of releasing one operating system to be used across a wide range of devices: PCs, servers, TVs, and, now, phones. Canonical unveiled Ubuntu TV last year, but the platform has yet to ship commercially.
The Ubuntu for Phones interface should look familiar to anyone already familiar with using Unity, the default user experience on the Ubuntu desktop.
"The design and implementation of the phone is beautiful," Jono Bacon, a Canonical employee serving as the Ubuntu Community Manager, said on his blog yesterday. "You can immediately tell it is Ubuntu; the Unity mobile experience looks clean and consistent with the desktop and touch is stunningly integrated."
Ubuntu for Phones introduces an interface built around interactive edges. While Android and iOS offer similar functionality within certain apps, this functionality is not yet integrated to the home screen experience. Windows Phone 8, on the other hand, already uses swiping gestures as a means of accessing a list of available apps. Regardless, Ubuntu for Phones bares little in common with Windows Phone visually.
“The Ubuntu for phones experience is designed to make all your phone content easier to access and your apps more immersive – every edge has a specific purpose, making all your apps, content and controls instantly accessible, without navigating back to the home screen every time. It’s a uniquely, beautifully converged experience,” Bacon said.
The Ubuntu for Phones home screen consolidates available apps, recent contacts, and stored media in a manner similar to the dash on an Ubuntu desktop. This information can be searched in order to find content faster.
Yesterday's announcement is aimed squarely at OEMs who may be interested in shipping Ubuntu on their hardware. Ubuntu for Phones is not expected to become available in stores before the end of 2013.