Ubuntu is aiming to be everywhere you want to be, and that now includes not only smartphones, but also tablets.

As promised, Canonical took the wraps off of Ubuntu Touch for tablets today. The newest version is built on the same core as the rest of the Linux line and will allow for gesture navigation and voice activated controls of the interface. As an added bonus, just as you can with the phone, you can hook up a keyboard and mouse and turn the tablet it into a computer, or you can use it as a media hub with your TV. This is sounds like a pretty tempting tablet operating system to us.

The developer preview will be launched on Feb. 21 with installation instructions for the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablet devices as well as smartphones such as the Nexus 4 and Galaxy Nexus. The app development SDK will also be updated at that time with support for tablet configurations.

One has to suspect it won’t be too awfully long until a manufacturer announces the launch of a tablet with this as the native operating system. And from first glance, it seems like it won’t be too bad of a choice.

Ubuntu unveils tablet experience with multi-tasking

  • Unique ‘side stage’ multi-tasking puts phone and tablet apps on a single tablet screen
  • Secure enterprise tablets with full disk encryption, multiple secure user accounts and standard management tool that covers Ubuntu server, PC and touch
  • Unique convergence across all four form factors: a phone can provide tablet, TV and PC interfaces when docked to the appropriate screen / keyboard / remote

London 19th February 2013: Canonical today presented Ubuntu’s tablet interface – the next step towards one unified family of experiences for personal computing on phones, tablets, PCs and TVs.

“Multi-tasking productivity meets elegance and rigorous security in our tablet experience,” said Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu and Canonical. “Our family of interfaces now scales across all screens, so your phone can provide tablet, PC and TV experiences when you dock it. That’s unique to Ubuntu and it’s the future of personal computing.”

“Fashion industry friends say the Ubuntu phone and tablet are the most beautiful interfaces they’ve seen for touch,” said Ivo Weevers, who leads the Canonical design team. “We’re inspired by the twin goals of style and usability, and working with developers who are motivated to create the best possible experience for friends, family and industry.”

The new tablet design doesn’t just raise the bar for elegant presentation, it breaks new ground in design and engineering, featuring:

  • Real multitasking: Uniquely, Ubuntu allows a phone app on the screen at the same time as a tablet app. The Ubuntu side stage was invented both to enable efficient multitasking and to improve the usability of phone apps on tablets.
  • Secure multi-user: Multiple accounts on one tablet with full encryption for personal data, combined with the trusted Ubuntu security model that is widely used in banks, governments and sensitive environments, making it ideal for work and family use.
  • Voice controlled HUD productivity: The Heads-Up Display, unique to Ubuntu, makes it fast and easy to do complex things on touch devices, and transforms touch interfaces for rich applications, bringing all the power of the PC to your tablet.
  • Edge magic for cleaner apps: Screen edges are used for navigation between apps, settings and controls. That makes for less clutter, more content, and sleeker hardware. No physical or soft buttons are required. It’s pure touch elegance.
  • Content focus: Media is neatly presented on the customisable home screen, which can search hundreds of sources. Perfect for carriers and content owners that want to highlight their own content, while still providing access to a global catalogue.
  • Full convergence: The tablet interface is presented by exactly the same OS and code that provides the phone, PC and TV interfaces, enabling true device convergence. Ubuntu is uniquely designed to scale smoothly across all form factors.

The Ubuntu tablet interface supports screen sizes from 6″ to 20″ and resolutions from 100 to 450 PPI. “The tablet fits perfectly between phone and PC in the Ubuntu family,” says Oren Horev, lead designer for the Ubuntu tablet experience. “Not only do we integrate phone apps in a distinctive way, we shift from tablet to PC very smoothly in convergence devices.”

On high end silicon, Ubuntu offers a full PC experience when the tablet is docked to a keyboard, with access to remote Windows applications over standard protocols from Microsoft, Citrix, VMware and Wyse. “An Ubuntu tablet is a secure thin client that can be managed with the same tools as any Ubuntu server or desktop,” said Stephane Verdy, who leads enterprise desktop and thin client products at Canonical. “We are delighted to support partners on touch and mobile thin clients for the enterprise market.”

Even without chipset-specific optimisation, Ubuntu performs beautifully on entry level hardware. “Our four-year engagement with ARM has shaped Ubuntu for mobile” said Rick Spencer, VP Ubuntu Engineering at Canonical. “We benefit from the huge number of contributing developers who run Ubuntu every day, many of whom are moving to touch devices as their primary development environment.”

For silicon vendors, Ubuntu is compatible with any Linux-oriented Board Support Package (BSP). This means Ubuntu is easy to enable on most chipset designs that are currently running Android. Ubuntu and Android are the two platforms enabled by Linaro members.

The Touch Developer Preview of Ubuntu will be published on the 21st February 2013 with installation instructions for the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablet devices as well as smartphones such as the Nexus 4 and Galaxy Nexus. Installable images and source code will be available from developer.ubuntu.com.

The Preview SDK, which currently supports phone app development, will now be updated to support tablet apps as well. Uniquely, on Ubuntu, developers can create a single application that works on the phone, tablet, PC and TV because it is the same system and all services work across all form factors.