Canonical announced on Wednesday the upcoming release of a touch-based Ubuntu for smartphones. Similar to Microsoft's new Windows 8 platform, it will be one operating system that can be used across multiple form factors – including the desktop and Smart TVs – only without the licensing costs to manufacturers.
"We expect Ubuntu to be popular in the enterprise market, enabling customers to provision a single secure device for all PC, thin client and phone functions. Ubuntu is already the most widely used Linux enterprise desktop, with customers in a wide range of sectors focused on security, cost and manageability," said Jane Silber, CEO of Canonical. "We also see an opportunity in basic smartphones that are used for the phone, SMS, web and email, where Ubuntu outperforms thanks to its native core apps and stylish presentation."
On the smartphone front, the new Ubuntu will be focused on two markets: the high-end "superphone" and the entry-level basic smartphone. The handset interface will also include "edge magic" which will consist of thumb gestures from all four edges of the screen. These gestures will allow the user to find content and switch between apps faster than other phones.
In addition to Edge Magic, the new smartphone interface promises deep content immersion (controls appear only when the user wants them); a global search for apps, content and products; voice and text commands in any application; support for native and HTML5 (web) apps; and evolving personalized art on the welcome screen.
"Canonical makes it easy to build phones with Ubuntu," the company said. "The company provides engineering services to offload the complexity of maintaining multiple code bases which has proven to be a common issue for smartphone manufacturers, freeing the manufacturer to focus on hardware design and integration. For silicon vendors, Ubuntu is compatible with a typical Android Board Support Package (BSP). This means Ubuntu is ready to run on the most cost-efficient chipset designs."
Like Google's own open-source Android, smartphone manufacturers and wireless carriers will be able to add their own branded offerings. Even more, Ubuntu One, Canonical's personal cloud service, will provide storage and media services, file sharing and a secure transaction service which "enables partners to integrate their own service offerings easily."
The new multi-platform Ubuntu will be on display next week during CES 2013 in Las Vegas. Devices using the new OS are slated to arrive in late 2013 and will include a quad-core A9 or Intel Atom SoC, a 1 GB memory minimum, a 32 GB storage minimum (in addition to an SD card slot), multi-touch and desktop convergence on the "superphone" front. Entry-level smartphones are expected to feature a 1 GHz Cortex A9 SoC, 512 MB to 1 GB of RAM, 4 GB to 8 GB of internal storage, an SD card slot, and multi-touch capabilities.
"This announcement is good news for consumers who are already living in a mobile-centric world," Ian Drew, executive vice president, Marketing and Business Development, ARM. "Ubuntu will hand users the ability to enjoy a unified experience across the multiple platforms on which they lead their digital lives. It will also help to deliver the highly personalized interface, operating system, content and applications that are central to the creation of compelling new digital experiences."
For more information about Ubuntu on smartphones, head here.