Canonical's Big Reveal is Ubuntu for Smartphones

Paul Lilly

Ubuntu is getting touch support, but it's for smartphones.

After teasing the web community with a countdown timer to its secret touch reveal, Canonical on Wednesday spilled the beans about what's coming next for Ubuntu: smartphones . Like Windows 8, Ubuntu is trending towards a single operating system for multiple devices, though not necessarily with identical interfaces. In fact, Ubuntu for smartphones will sport a "distinctive" interface that makes use of all four edges of the screen for a more immersive experience.

Canonical is thinking big right from the get-go. The company is taking aim at two core mobile segments: the high-end superphone and the entry-level basic smartphone. In terms of the former, users will be able to plop their Ubuntu-powered superphone into a dock to turn into into a full PC or thin client device.

"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."

The handset interface is what's most interesting here. According to Canonical, Ubuntu for phones will feature thumb gestures from all four sides, a global search function for apps and content, voice and text commands in any application, native and web or HTML5 apps, and evolving personalized art on the welcome screen.

Unfortunately, you can't run out and buy an Ubuntu phone today, tomorrow, next week, or even next month. However, Canonical says it's ready to start working with partners, with the goal of launching phones before the end of 2013. The company also plans to demo early phones at CES next week and again at MWC in February.

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