As advertised yesterday, Canonical has officially announced Ubuntu for Tablets today, and also announced that you'll be able to test a developer preview on your Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets this Thursday. The OS will apparently be consistent with the desktop and phone versions, heavily dependent upon gestures and swipes from the sides and corners of the screen for navigation and controls.
One OS for any display
Canonical's obvious goal behind making Ubuntu available for mobile devices is to give you the chance to experience the popular Linux distro on any screen size, even a watch or a TV (well, parts of Ubuntu on a watch anyway ). The tablet version officially bridges the gap between the PC and the smartphone, supporting any display size between 6 inches and 20 inches (there's a sight - people walking around with 20-inch tablets ).
High performance for high-performance hardware
The minimum system requirements of Ubuntu for Tablets are rather confusing. On one hand, the listed requirements in Canonical's press brochure include a dual-core ARM Cortex-A15 processor (like the Exynos 5250 on the Nexus 10) for the entry-level variant of Ubuntu for Tablets. On the other hand, the press release states that the developer preview will also be available for the Nexus 7, which is based on an older ARM Cortex-A9 processor (though the Tegra 3 is a quad-core processor, the Exynos 5250 easily surpasses it for performance). We'll have to wait at least until Thursday to see how it performs on the Nexus 7.
A new take on multitasking
One of the biggest draws that Ubuntu would have on a mobile device is true multitasking, which Android and iOS have tried to emulate, but only to limited success (at least for Android ). A unique take on this feature comes to Ubuntu for Tablets via a dual-panel configuration called "side stage" which basically lets you run one app in the main panel while running a completely different app in the smaller side panel. Examples of this "side stage" multi-window feature mentioned by Canonical on its website include Skype calling in the side panel while working on a document in the main panel, dragging content from a gallery in the main panel to a note-taking app in the side panel, and tweeting while watching a movie.
Canonical built a better mousetrap, but will the people come?
I'll go more in-depth about the tablet experience promised by Ubuntu in a later article, but for now I'll say that it has a great deal of potential, especially for the more powerful Nexus tablets expected to be released this year. Actually, Canonical had this to say about device support:
With Ubuntu being able to run on any tablet currently supporting Android, manufacturers will have a much easier time producing native Ubuntu tablets, but the bigger question is whether they will sell. As I mentioned yesterday, one big hurdle Canonical will have to clear is content. The year of experience with Ubuntu TV should help with supplying video content, but will developers embrace Ubuntu for Tablets enough to give Canonical an app catalog competitive with the likes of Apple, Amazon and Google? Time will tell.
Until then, please feel free to enjoy the demonstration video and post your opinions in the comments section.