Ubuntu goes mobile: OS for smartphones officially announced, first device to launch in 2014

The gap between mobile devices and PCs is becoming smaller and more blurred as handsets and tablets evolve. Now, a major player in the PC universe is making a presence in the smartphone industry, as Canonical has just unveiled the first Ubuntu themed operating system for mobile devices.

Just yesterday Canonical began to tease that an Ubuntu-based software for phones would be revealed, but until Wednesday many of the details remained a mystery. The company wasted no time, as Canonical posted a countdown teaser on Ubuntu’s homepage on the first day of 2013. The phrase “So close, you can almost touch it” was posted alongside the countdown, alluding that a significant announcement would come soon.

Touted as a “superphone that’s also a full PC,” the Ubuntu mobile operating system will be built around existing Android kernel and drivers. However, it will not use Java Virtual Machine but does promise to use “the full power of the phone.” This Ubuntu-based smartphone OS will support both ARM and x86 processors, which means that Android hardware manufacturers and developers should be able to adopt the operating system with little trouble.

Although Ubuntu’s mobile software is still in its early stages, an Android version of the Linux-based operating system was announced about one year ago in February 2012. This marked the first step toward a mobile presence for Ubuntu and Canonical chief Mark Shuttleworth says that the software’s Android variant is set to launch this year. No carrier or manufacturer support has been announced yet, but the mobile Ubuntu handset should be provided by a “high end” Android manufacturer, according to The Verge.

Full-fledged Ubuntu handsets are expected to come in early 2014, and this would line up with the company’s production schedule seeing as Ubuntu for Android was announced in early 2012. While we may not be seeing an Ubuntu device anytime too soon, a number of demo phones have been shown off in the UK. Over the next couple of weeks, downloadable images of the development platform will be available for the Galaxy Nexus. This device is the only known handset that will support Ubuntu for now, but Canonical is likely to roll it out to more devices as developers perfect Ubuntu’s mobile ecosystem.

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