Developer preview for Ubuntu Phone due this week - Update
Canonical is planning to release the "Touch Developer Preview of Ubuntu for phones" on Thursday 21 February. This release will allow developers to put images of the phone-optimised Ubuntu onto the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4 smartphones. The images are billed as "early previews" to allow developers to create applications for the phone operating system and, rather than being a snapshot of development, will be supplemented by daily updates.
There will also be an associated "open code" release which Canonical's Pat McGowan says will allow other developers to "bring up" the phone environment on devices other than the two Google phones supported by the images. Details of the installation process will be published on wiki.ubuntu.com/TouchInstallProcess, which will also include a supported device list that will be updated as new devices are added.
Canonical says that the release marks the start of an era of "true convergence between devices" and that, by the time October's release of Ubuntu 13.10 arrives, it will be delivering a single code base which operates on mobile, tablet, desktop and TV. The company has yet to show any tablet user experience to date, save for a very un-touch-optimised port of the desktop to the Nexus 7 (See update). A "complete entry-level smartphone experience" is said to be included in Ubuntu 13.10, though at the January launch of the Ubuntu for Phone platform, entry level was defined as not including the desktop-when-docked functionality that has previously been shown as part of the, still unreleased, Ubuntu for Android.
A Preview SDK and App Design Guides have been released by Canonical to guide developers in creating applications for October's converged Ubuntu, where the company claims one single application binary will be able to work, thanks to Qt/QML, on all four formulations of Ubuntu.
Some though are not convinced by Canonical's claims. Aaron Seigo, well known for his KDE development work, took to Google+ in a rare critical posting which questioned how Canonical could merge its current blend of GNOME/GTK3 desktop environments in Ubuntu with the Qt/QML construction of Ubuntu phone. "I want to make it crystal clear that I think Ubuntu Phone a great thing to see" said Seigo, who considers his criticisms to be more about the marketing and messaging and a worry that over-promising could damage the Free Software community.
Update (19/02/13): The lack of an announced tablet experience for Ubuntu may well be addressed today. Canonical has updated the ubuntu.com front page with a panel reading "Tick, Tock, Tablet Time" and is holding a call at 17:00 GMT. No further details are available.