Why carry two devices, when you could carry only one? Imagine carrying a full desktop computer in your pocket. We’re talking about a real desktop OS built in to your smartphone. Your next high-end smartphone has far more horsepower than you’ll need on a phone, and more than enough for a laptop. Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, wants to make that happen. Android for the phone experience, Ubuntu for the desktop, all on one device, running at the same time.
In your pocket, it’s an Android-powered smartphone. Not just any smartphone, either – it’s your smartphone. Pull it out and drop it in a docking station, though, and it becomes a full workstation powered by Ubuntu, complete with monitor and keyboard. Sounds incredible, right? One address book. One set of bookmarks. One place for your text messages and email. No more typing on a tiny screen when all you want is a keyboard and a mouse. No more going round in circles trying to make your mobile do what it was not intended for. Seamless integration of your desktop and mobile worlds. Brilliant.
Why add anything to Android?
Android is a mobile solution, designed for a touch interface on a handheld device. On the desktop, where users expect a pointer-driven experience, a PC operating system is essential. Several vendors have tried to bring Android-based desktops or laptops to market, with no success; Android was designed for touch only, and has its hands full winning the tablet wars.
A complete desktop solution needs a full range of desktop applications. While a mobile OS carries no deep desktop software catalogue, Ubuntu offers thousands of applications, all designed for the desktop and most, like Ubuntu, free. And Ubuntu is certified by governments, industry and enterprises, widely deployed on the desktop, and supported by leading management solutions.
Another alternative would be a web-top, or web only desktop. But markets have not responded to web-only environments. The desktop is a high-productivity mode, not a media consumption mode or a browsing mode like you have on mobiles.
Canonical seems to have covered all the bases here, too; since the Android kernel is based on the Linux kernel, it’s fully compatible with Ubuntu. This means that, thanks to some software tweaks built into Ubuntu for Android, you still have access to all of your phone’s goodies, including SMS messages and phone calls.
What kind of horsepower would it take to run something like this, though? Honestly, not that much. In fact, most multi-core phones with at least 512MB of RAM, HDMI, and USB should be able to handle what Canonical is proposing.
At this point, Canonical is still calling out to manufacturers and carriers to hop on board so they can start integrating Ubuntu for Android into handsets, so it’s hard to say when we’ll actually see this in the consumer market. Canonical is, however, planning to demo Ubuntu for Android at next week’s Mobile World Congress convention in Barcelona, so hopefully that will spark more interest.