Mark Shuttleworth revealed the Ubuntu phone, pulling the classic Executive-announcing-a-mobile-product move by taking a special Galaxy Nexus from his jacket pocket. He then proceeded to give us a first look at this Ubuntu for Phones, a full Ubuntu OS for smartphones that sports a Unity interface that Canonical believes is easier to use than Android or iOS. The trick to this is that all navigation occurs by tapping and swiping the four phone edges, each with a unique action.
Ubuntu has two phone projects. One of them is called “Ubuntu for Android,” which allows Android smartphones to act as Ubuntu PCs when docked with a monitor, mouse, and keyboard. The version of Ubuntu for phones announced yesterday is just Ubuntu, no Android required, allowing devices to run Ubuntu in both the phone and PC form factor, with different interfaces optimized for the different screens. Canonical is keeping Ubuntu for Android around, even as it touts its own phone operating system as a better alternative.
The smartphone market is already dominated by iPhone and Android, with RIM losing prominence, Windows Phone making a charge at third place, and various other operating systems aiming for elusive name recognition. So why should carriers and handset makers warm to Ubuntu, and why should anyone buy an Ubuntu phone?
In short, Shuttleworth believes that Ubuntu will be more user-friendly for people who barely know how to use a smartphone, and he says it will offer a more powerful alternative to Android at the high end for several reasons, including Ubuntu’s ability to operate across mobile devices and desktops.
Canonical isn’t stopping at phones. There will be Ubuntu tablets, too. But phones seem to be Canonical’s top mobile priority, or at least the one that is the furthest along. “We think we can hold our own in what is going to be a very vibrant market,” Shuttleworth said.
In the meantime, if you’d like to see a demo of this OS in action, The Verge has posted this video:
Here is the video from Shuttleworth’s presentation in London and some images from the new Ubuntu Phone OS:
More detailed information and pictures with the Ubuntu operating system for Android smartphones can be found on the official website.