Canonical uncloaks Ubuntu for Android

Ubuntu Android

Canonical plans to increase work mobility with the release of Ubuntu for Android.

The concept, unveiled yesterday, allows Android smartphone users to access the free Ubuntu desktop by connecting their phones to a monitor and keyboard.

With Android and Ubuntu running at the same time, the systems automatically sync with each other and seamlessly switch between the two. Android applications such as contacts, telephony and SMS/MMS messaging are accessible from the Ubuntu interface.

It's not an application on Android - it's full Ubuntu, running alongside Android.

Likewise, the Ubuntu desktop is synchronised with Android. Someone working on an email from Ubuntu can disconnect their smartphone and continue composing on the go with Android.

"It's not an application on Android - it's full Ubuntu, running alongside Android," Canonical CEO Jane Silber told our sister site PC Pro.

Silber said Ubuntu for Android would be released under an open source license, but that Canonical expects it to mostly be pre-installed on specific hardware.

"We'll want to optimise for certain hardware profiles and chips," she said. "It simply wouldn't be the same experience on a downloaded install."

According to Silber, the system can be run on smart TVs, but Ubuntu for Android is mainly targeted towards PCs and laptops.

"We think the main use case is for the converged device, of a laptop and smartphone converging, and in the enterprise for the mobile worker," she said.

Both OSes are based on Linux, making integration effortless, according to Canonical.

"It's a Linux solution for a Linux smartphone platform," project manager Richard Collins added. "Other than Android, we're interested in any smartphone platform that's Linux based as well, it's just that Android is the biggest one by a long-shot right now."

In order to work, handsets need to be dual-core, offer at least 1GHz CPU and 512MB of RAM, and support HDMI - general qualities possessed by most modern smartphones.

Ubuntu for Android will work best with 4G connections, Canonical said. Cloud apps like Google Docs work best with a full desktop, and shine with the lower latency of LTE, Canonical said.

Businesses in the UK don't yet have access to 4G, however.

Collins said the system also supports thin client solutions from VMware and Citrix.

"In terms of a fully-fledged enterprise solution, if there's a thin-client environment that's something that works very, very well with this solution," Collins said

The system is a crucial step forward in Canonical's quest to move Ubuntu onto smartphones and tablets.

According to Silber, Canonical is already talking with some manufacturers and will be showing the product off at Mobile World Congress next week to persuade more mobile device makers to join in.

As of now there is no launch date yet but Silber said the software is ready to go.

Read on for our head-to-head featuring Ubuntu vs. Windows 7 on a business desktop.