updated 02:35 pm EST, Tue February 21, 2012
Ubuntu for Android takes on work, developing world
Canonical in the run-up to Mobile World Congress sought to change the approach to smartphone use with Ubuntu for Android. Going beyond even Motorola's Webtop, it promises a full Ubuntu Linux desktop with a windowed environment when the smartphone is mounted in a dock and attached to both an HDMI display and a USB keyboard. From the start, users get a full Chromium web browser, Gwibber social networking, Thunderbird for e-mail, and VLC for media playback.
Because both Ubuntu and Android are Linux variants, it lets users run apps for both. A consistent contact database, shared social networking, and other "important" shared information lets apps on one OS see information created by the other. Both 3G and 4G data continue to work.
The approach is being pitched as a way to transform both work and the developing world. At work, it could stand in as a thin client PC where users tap into the cloud for most of their apps. It may matter more for the developing world, where a smartphone may be a much more affordable or simply necessary alternative to a traditional PC.
Ubuntu will be demonstrated on Android next week at Mobile World Congress. Its exact availability may hinge on individual phone makers and companies, although the previously shown Ubuntu TV framework is present and could see companies willing to adopt it just for the new media features.