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"Webtop" will give Linux fans a second mini-desktop when plugged into their Linux machine

With over 20 million active users worldwide, Ubuntu -- published by Canonical Ltd. -- is widely claimed to be the "fastest growingPC version of Linux.  A 2012 poll by LifeHacker saw 51 percent of respondents calling Ubuntu their favor Linux distro, well ahead of the runner-up Mint (16 percent).  Ubuntu remains one of the only Linux distros to be taken seriously by PC OEMs (i.e. offered in commercial products).

Thus, the recent announcements of Ubuntu on Android and Ubuntu smartphone OS may excite some, if not all of Android users.  Canonical kicked off the party in February 2012 announcing a native extension to Android. And Canonical this week announced the availability of test builds of an even more ambitious effort -- a full-fledged mobile operating system, which could one-day compete with Android.

Ubuntu on Android devices looks and feels like normal Android when operating in a mobile context.  But when plugged into a Ubuntu machine (PC) they become a "webtop" a second-desktop of sorts; mirroring the Unit user-interface (Unity UI) of the parent Ubuntu install.

While this may sound like a mere gimmick, the neat part for enthusiasts is that you'll get full (or likely close to full in release devices) control of the file system, allowing you to shuffle files onto and off of the devices more freely.

Further, all the desktop switch occurs natively inside a modified version of the Android kernel, so unlike other experimental efforts to put emulated Linux distros inside virtual machines on Android courtesy of the Java Virtual Machine (JVM), there should be little if any performance penalty.

The mini Ubuntu desktop will sync app settings (e.g. Thunderbird, browser) with those of their traditional Android equivalents.  It will also include some unique app, including one that lets the device act like a mini-Ubuntu TV, giving users access to Canonical's movie rental service.

Ubuntu's new smartphone OS takes things a step further, ditching the Android kernel altogether.  Engadget reports that the user interface relies heavily on edge swipes, similar to Windows 8.

Ubuntu on Android
Ubuntu on Android acts like normal Android until plugged into a Ubuntu PC.
[Image Source: The Verge]

 
Currently Canonical is offering a test image of Ubuntu on Android for developers that can be loaded on the Nexus 4 smartphone from Google Inc. (GOOG) and LG Electronics, Inc. (KSC:066570).  The finalized software is expected to be available sometime later this year, according to company founder Mark Shuttleworth.  

A test image for the full phone operating system will be released for the Nexus 4 in the next few weeks, according to Mr. Shuttleworth.  He commented that a proper "Ubuntu Phone" -- which offers a full-fledges Ubuntu operating system in a mobile context will be released from a "high-end" partner sometime in 2014.

Ubuntu on Android tablets may be in store for sometime in 2014 or 2015 as well, given Android's rising market share in that space.

(A humorous side-note: years ago Canonical and Google were rumored to be working together on a new distro called "Googbuntu".  Ubuntu on Linux is perhaps the real world realization of that rumored build, which at the time proved to be fantasy.)

Sources: Ubuntu [1], [2; PR via Engadget], The Verge





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