Ubuntu For Android: The Complete Story

Strap on to your seats, you are about to go on a roller coaster ride on board Canonical’s new plan for Ubuntu. Mark Shuttleworth has revealed the new ‘Ubuntu for Android’ concept (a working prototype by the way). Well, the title can be a bit misleading as it definitely does not mean an Ubuntu app built for Android nor ‘The Ubuntu phone’ but something much more.

But before we dive into the details about this new concept, I think let’s first see how bits of the puzzle has been integrated.

Ubuntu ARM Performance
Over the past few months there has been a lot of noise or better actual facts depicting the improved performance of Ubuntu 12.04 on ARM devices. You can see the performance charts for yourself here. And I was wondering that this is definitely meant for something. Well, here we have it! Its for running ‘Ubuntu on mobile devices’

Android – The Linux Brother
We all know about Android, the mobile OS developed by Google. The best part of Android is that it also uses the Linux kernel just like Ubuntu. Now imagine if Android and Ubuntu could work together sharing the same Linux kernel on one device. And that is the new concept showcased by Canonical.

‘Ubuntu for Android’

This brings a whole range of new features and opens the user to a entirely new world. Let’s now look at the concept itself. With Ubuntu for Android, Ubuntu and Android share the same Linux Kernel on an Android phone. When you carry the phone with you, it acts just like a normal Android phone. Nothing special about that. However, when you connect the phone to an external monitor with keyboard and mouse Ubuntu OS boots and runs concurrently with Android. This allows for both mobile and desktop apps to run at the same time.

While running Ubuntu, you will still be able to access all of Android’s resources like contacts, messages, Android apps, email etc..basically everything! So just imagine a user case scenario where you have an Android phone. You use it normally like any other phone. Then you plug it to a monitor at home or work. Now you are running a full fledged Ubuntu with applications you normally use like Thunderbird, Firefox and Rhythmbox. However you will have all your phone data in these applications thereby providing a seamless transfer.

Hence you get:

Unified Contacts, Emails, Calendar, Web bookmarks, Alarm clock settings, social networking (facebook, twitter, google+) where ever you are (at home, work or anywhere  in the world).

Now why would you want this? Well nowadays smartphones are powerhouses coming with multiple cores and lots of space. You can essential use your phone as a PC. The drawback being small screen and keyboard. With this concept, you convert actually convert your phone into PC by just using a external monitor. Also while you are in this mode, you can still receive messages and make and receive calls.

This screenshot shows calls being received on the monitor. Seamless Integration is the word you are looking for. The number of applications just doubled. You can use default Ubuntu Apps in addition to all Android Apps.

Technical Background

  • Canonical expects this to work on phones having the following hardware specs.
  • Dual-core 1GHz CPU
  • Video acceleration: shared kernel driver with associated X driver; Open GL, ES/EGL
  • Storage: 2GB for OS disk image
  • HDMI: video out with secondary frame buffer device
  • USB host mode
  • 512 MB RAM
  • Quad-core mobiles are expected this year 2012 or later which can fully make use of this concept. In fact, some of your own phones like Google Nexus or Samsung Galaxy already meet the hardware requirements!

More to come soon!
The “Ubuntu for Android” concept will be shown in the Mobile World Congress which is held next week in Barcelona. We will be present there to attend this and promise to provide a video screencast of this new concept. Until then, we look forward to hearing your opinions in the comments below.

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