Raspberry Pi 4: Could Ubuntu Be On The Way? (Update)

Ubuntu 20.04 Installed on a Raspberry Pi 4
(Image credit: Future)

Update 6/9/2020 09:07 PT: We would like to quote that the source of this story was OMG Ubuntu.

Original Article:

On the surface the Raspberry Pi 4 8GB may not have been a revolutionary release, but it has finally brought the power of a low cost 64 bit desktop computer to homes around the world. From day one the Raspberry Pi has used a Linux based operating system, initially a rather limited release of Debian, called Raspbian which has evolved over the years to become Raspberry Pi OS. But there are times when a more refined desktop experience would benefit the user.

For over 15 years Ubuntu have provided a Linux distribution that offers a more friendly and forgiving means to delve into the Linux ecosystem.

On a recent Ubuntu Podcast, Martin Wimpress, Director of Engineering at Canonical the company which publishes Ubuntu, hinted that “maybe we’re working on Ubuntu desktop for the Raspberry Pi”. Martin Wimpress was brought in to work on the main Ubuntu release based on his work in the Ubuntu MATE community.

There is a high chance that this will be ready for Ubuntu 20.10 due for release in October 2020. 

Ubuntu has been an official option since the Raspberry Pi 2 was released, but official support was limited to running servers or installing Ubuntu Core, an IoT platform based on Ubuntu Server. There are community and unofficial projects to enable installation of Ubuntu on to the Raspberry Pi 4. These projects typically use an Ubuntu Server image as a base from which to install a desktop environment using the APT package manager or via Desktopify, which is a tool also developed by Martin Wimpress.

Could Ubuntu replace Raspberry Pi OS as the default operating system? Unlikely given that Raspberry Pi OS is an in-house project which has early access to the latest Raspberry Pi hardware. Instead what Ubuntu could bring is a more refined desktop experience for those that wish to use the Raspberry Pi as a desktop computer or for business use as a thin client.

Early Alpha and Beta testing images of Ubuntu 20.10 for the Raspberry Pi will be available in the coming months, but if you cannot wait then you can always try Desktopify.

We have reached out for confirmation of this news and will update this post accordingly.

Les Pounder

Les Pounder is an associate editor at Tom's Hardware. He is a creative technologist and for seven years has created projects to educate and inspire minds both young and old. He has worked with the Raspberry Pi Foundation to write and deliver their teacher training program "Picademy".

  • bit_user
    With RPi OS and Ubuntu both being Debian-based, the main difference from my perspective would be Ubuntu's support for 64-bit userspace.

    BTW, I don't use the Pi's GUI, so which window manager it's running is irrelevant for me. Therefore, I don't know if Pi even supports any other options than its default. When I'm using an Ubuntu desktop, I run KDE.
  • TJ Hooker
    Ubuntu server (32 or 64 bit) is already available for raspberry pi, which is more or less the same as regular ubuntu except it doesn't come with a graphical desktop environment. From there you can (in theory) install any DE you want, assuming you want one in the first place. I had some mixed results though on my Pi 4, when I (very briefly) tried out a few DEs.

    I started with KDE, as that's the only DE I have experience with. I think it worked as long as you disable the compositor, but performance isn't great. Gnome was similar IIRC, worked but slow. I also tried Xfce and LXDE/LXQt (can't remember which one, maybe both). Those seemed to work OK, but didn't seem to recognize my TV resolution properly (1080p) and their resolution settings apps were buggy and I couldn't change anything. Maybe could have solved that using CLI with xrandr commands or something but I didn't feel like messing around with that.