Barring any last minute delays, Canonical is set to announce a new breed of Ubuntu devices, under the Ubuntu Touch banner.
Ubuntu Touch represents Canonical’s latest effort to get Ubuntu in the hands of OEM manufacturers. The company has tried in the past, with multiple failed spinoffs. First Ubuntu MID, in a partnership with Intel, aimed to get Ubuntu on Intel’s Mobile Internet Device platform. MIDs begat Netbooks, and Ubuntu came back with Ubuntu Netbook Edition.
One thing did stick from Ubuntu’s discontinued netbook distribution, and that was Unity. Unity marked Canonical’s forking of the GNOME desktop interface, and has served as the main Ubuntu interface for years.
Now, Canonical will announce that the Unity interface has gone touch-friendly.
We previously reviewed the Nexus 7 release of Ubuntu. It turns out, that the developer roots of that build run deeper than Canonical may have led on. The choice of the Nexus 7 was not its Google roots, but rather, its Tegra 3 core and easy-to-unlock bootloader.
Canonical appears to have leaked the announcement, in their trackers for the Ubuntu 13.04 release schedule:
Oops: OEMs working with Canonical on Ubuntu ARM / Unity Touch experience
Learning from past mistakes, sources point to Ubuntu Desktop embracing the “one Ubuntu” theme… as in, there won’t be an ARM “Ubuntu RT” distribution and an Ubuntu Desktop distribution which appear similar, but function differently. Changes for the tablet experience will be rolled into Ubuntu 13.04, and both will be identical from a developer standpoint. There may be an internal build of Ubuntu for OEM partners that differs on lower levels, but from a user functionality standpoint, Ubuntu with a compatible touch screen will function the same on an x86 Slate PC, as it will on a new Tegra 3 PC.
NVIDIA is also onboard, and will be providing closed-source drivers for Tegra 3 and Ubuntu. This also opens the door for potentially leveraging other Tegra 3 devices, such as the OUYA console, as a $99 Tegra 3 PC powered by Ubuntu. Tegra 3, while underpowered for graphics vs today’s even entry-to-mid level PCs, represents a capable PC for web browsing, H.264 video, and handheld 3D gaming.
Late last year, Canonical announced that Ubuntu 13.04 would not see an Alpha release, only offering consumers a final beta build, while other Ubuntu-based distributions would see full alpha and beta release phases. It appears this was done to hide Ubuntu’s tablet efforts, by ensuring that the new touch-friendly Unity would not be made available to consumers until after the mass-market announcement.
In addition to Ubuntu/Unity Touch, Canonical is also planning to launch Ubuntu for Android later this year. Ubuntu for Android differs from Ubuntu for Tablets, in that it runs as a secondary operating system for mobile devices built to run Android. By running Ubuntu atop Android, Canonical aims to fill the hole created by the death of Motorola’s axed-by-Google Webtop platform.