SA operating system for smartphones
16 January 2013
South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth is planning to bring his Ubuntu
operating system (OS) to smartphones, allowing the little devices to work as fully
functional Ubuntu desktops when docked and connected to a monitor and keyboard.
Shuttleworth, known since April 2002 as Africa's first space tourist, is the founder
and former chief executive officer of Canonical, a London-based open-source
software developer with offices in seven countries including China and Taiwan,
although it operates in over 30 countries.
He started development of Ubuntu after he "came back down to earth", and
released the first version in October 2004.
Canonical unveiled its latest project at the Consumer Electronics Fair in Los Angeles
earlier this month. A Google Nexus device running Ubuntu Phone, as it is known, was showcased at the event.
Following the announcement in January 2012 of the OS's adaptation to smart
televisions, this latest development, revealed exactly a year later, means that users need just one OS for their mobile, computing and viewing devices.
According to the company, the OS will work on entry level phones as well as more
powerful devices – these are its two core targets and will give operators an
opportunity to grow the use of mobile data among customers who before might have
only used their phones for calls and messages.
More powerful dual-core phones will be able to run Android when used as a phone,
and Ubuntu when docked.
Going mobile in 2013
"2013 will be all about mobile – bringing Ubuntu to phones and tablets," wrote
Shuttleworth on his blog, "and broadening the Ubuntu community to include mobile
developers who need new tools and frameworks to create mobile software."
Shuttleworth has said that he hopes to have Ubuntu phones on the market by 2014.
"It's quite incredible that we're at this point when the
power of the phone is crossing
over with the baseline processing power of basic laptops," he said in an interview
with the BBC.
"We're shaping the future of personal computing. Ubuntu is proven on the desktop,
and uniquely positioned to be at the heart of the next wave of consumer electronics,
combining a beautiful hand-held touch interface with a full PC experience when
Aimed at developing countries
Canonical expects to be most successful with this product in developing markets,
Shuttleworth said at a press conference at the Consumer Electronics Fair. The
demand for smartphones in these regions is high, with mobiles often the only means
of connecting to the internet.
A popular and acclaimed Linux distribution, Ubuntu is installed on some 20-million
computers around the world, says Canonical, and its bustling user community means
that work on the free-of-charge OS is always going on and that there are regular
improvements and tweaks released.
It is estimated that by 2014 10% of new desktops and laptops will have Ubuntu pre-
installed. According to Shuttleworth, the OS is installed on 30% of new computers of
various brands in China.
The announcement has been met with interest and enthusiasm from mobile
"It’s good news for consumers who are already living in a mobile-centric world," said
Ian Drew, executive VP of marketing at UK-based ARM, a manufacturer of mobile
processors. "Ubuntu will hand them the ability to enjoy a unified experience across
the multiple platforms on which they lead their digital lives."
Unique user experience
The OS is up against tough competition in 2013, with Android OS 4.2 (Jelly Bean),
Apple's iOS 6.0, the new Windows 8 and soon, the Blackberry 10 OS vying for market
The interface is described as clean, beautiful and fast, even for lower-end devices.
It uses all four edges of
the screen for swipe commands, meaning that users will be
able to get their tasks done faster.
Swipe from the left to access favourite apps; from the right to instantly bring up the
previously-used app and swipe again for the app used before that; from the top to
access system setting; and from the bottom to call up app controls.
The inbox provides one-stop access to all emails, social media posts, calls and text
Other distinctive features include one search for products, content and apps; text
and voice commands in all applications; and apps available in both the native code
and HTML5. The deal also includes access to Canonical’s secure cloud service
The software will run happily on Android hardware, so an Android-compatible device
will work with Ubuntu Phone as well.
First published by MediaClubSouthAfrica.com - get free high-resolution photos
professional feature articles from Brand South Africa's media service.