Ubuntu to unveil new mobile OS at CES – targets Android OEM heartland

3 Jan 2013

Fast-growing operating system maker Ubuntu and Canonical have unveiled a new mobile OS that can be installed on devices made by OEMs manufacturing Android devices. It describes the new operating system as a mobile OS ‘with the heart of a PC.’

Developed on the principle that most smartphones today have processing power as strong as ultra-light laptops, the OS is being targeted at not only the smartphone-toting public but also enterprise IT departments as a replacement for phones, thin clients and laptops.

The new mobile OS follows hot on the heels of Ubuntu for Android, which came out in February of last year.

Ubuntu also has its eyes on the emerging TV OS market.

The new OS will work on entry-level devices that have at least a 1GHz Cortex A9 processor, between 512MB to 1GB of memory and between 4 and 8GB of storage.

It will also feature on higher-end devices powered by quad core A9 or Intel Atom processors, with a minimum of 1GB of memory and more than 32GB of storage.

In a sense Ubuntu – heralded as the world’s fastest-growing alternative PC operating system vendor – is striking at the heart of the vast empire built in the past five years by Google with its Android OS and it is offering a tempting choice to manufacturers, such as Samsung, LG, HTC and others who are weary of the long-running patent wars against Apple.

Ubuntu (named after the South African philosophy of ‘humanity towards others’) is an open-source OS based on Linux that was first released in 2004 and is now the most popular Linux distribution on desktop and laptop computers, as well as cloud servers.

Ubuntu is backed by UK tech company Canonical, owned by South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth.

Apps for new Ubuntu mobile OS

Ubuntu said HTML5 apps written for other platforms can be easily adapted to the Ubuntu mobile OS. It is targeting cross-platform web app development frameworks like PhoneGap and uses QML to easily develop native apps that have C, C++ and JavaScript as their core engines.

Developers like EA, Valva and Unity Technologies are developing apps for the new OS.

First impressions of the new OS reveal a design aimed at putting content first and making the OS itself almost invisible, with edge of screen multi-direction swiping capabilities.

The new OS boasts a newly designed inbox for messages that Ubuntu said ‘reinvents the inbox’, providing quicker access to texts, calls and social media posts.

It is understood that the first devices sporting the new OS won’t hit the market until 2014, so expect Ubuntu’s work at CES to be cut out for it in terms of seducing OEMs to include the new OS on future phones.

A smart direction would also be working with mobile operators on own-branded devices who are eager to differentiate their offerings as fourth-generation (4G) LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks come on stream.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years