Canonical announces Ubuntu for Android
Canonical has come up with a new approach to getting Ubuntu onto smartphones; run the Ubuntu desktop on Android. Described as a "concept device", Ubuntu for Android comes into its own when a smartphone is docked and that dock is connected to a monitor, keyboard and mouse.
Canonical's concept is that, when docked, the smartphone starts running an X server displaying out on the HDMI connector and then runs the Unity desktop on that display. Users can then work with the desktop and applications for Ubuntu running on one core of a dual core phone, while the other core runs the phone's Android applications. The Ubuntu desktop could run applications such as Chromium, Firefox, Thunderbird or any other free software program that works best with a keyboard and mouse. By default, it would offer Chromium, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Thunderbird, Gwibber, VLC, PiTiVi, Ubuntu Music Player and Photo Gallery and an Android dialler.
Address books and bookmarks would be shared between the two environments and it would be possible to answer calls and send and receive email and SMS messages from the desktop. Because it is all being managed by the phone's native Android applications in the background, the phone and the desktop are always synchronised. The desktop will automatically save and restore its state when un-docked and re-docked, allowing users to quickly start work on their desktop.
The company says that it believes its solution is more appropriate than other "desktop" offerings for Android because its desktop is built around a keyboard and mouse driven desktop, not scaling up the Android desktop to a larger screen. "Android was designed for touch only, and has its hands full winning the tablet wars" says the company. Devices would need at least a dual core 1GHz CPU, video acceleration with a shared kernel driver and OpenGL and ES/EGL support, HDMI out with a secondary frame buffer, USB host mode support and 512MB of RAM. The operating system would also need an additional 2GB of storage space for its disk image.
Canonical believes that Ubuntu for Android could "drive sales of multi-core phones with faster CPUs, more cores, more RAM and high-end graphics". It also believes that desktop applications will help push LTE wireless with its higher bandwidth and lower latency. The company thinks that Ubuntu for Android would lead to an active peripheral ecosystem, centred around a range of docking options for users. Canonical is taking the concept, in the form of functioning devices, to next week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona where it hopes to find partners who will pre-load the platform onto their smartphones as a differentiator in a crowded market.