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Plans For Ubuntu On Phones Are Laid

Ubuntu

Published on 02 November 2011 10:43 PM EDT
Written by Michael Larabel in Ubuntu
21 Comments

Besides everything else that went on today at the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Orlando for the upcoming Ubuntu 12.04 LTS release, initial plans for Ubuntu on mobile smart phones were laid out.

The key items that were brought up during this initial hour-long session regarding Ubntu on phones, per Mark's announcement of Ubuntu on tablets and smart-phones by Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, are listed below. These are the highlights I took down while being at this session in person from UDS-P Orlando.

- The plan for having the Unity desktop interface on Ubuntu-powered smart-phones simply isn't a shrunken version of Unity. A mobile-specific version of Unity will be developed. But there will be dash, a launcher, the Unity lenses, and everything just integrated for small form factor devices.

- Whether Unity 2D or Unity (3D) will be used as a starting point isn't yet known. Based upon some of the abilities of the Qt tool-kit as used by Unity 2D, the Ubuntu mobile developers might prefer that to using GTK.

- The root file-system for Ubuntu on mobile phones was discussed.. The key option as mentioned by a Canonical engineer leading the discussion was the YAFFS2 file-system.

- With Ubuntu for mobile phones there are special concerns about the application lifecycle and memory management (being able to "suspend" application memory to disk in low-memory environments or when inactive).

- The user-interfaces of traditional Ubuntu applications are obviously a concern, such as for the web-browser, mail client, and other key apps.

- Whether PulseAudio or any other audio service was brought up... PulseAudio is not well optimized for ARM devices, but perhaps it's time it really should be.

- Some sort of SDK or API limitations will be in place due to the reduced memory footprint and limitations of what's possible for these handy devices.

- NetworkManager was brought up as well and whether it would be suitable for Ubuntu on handhelds. Intel's ConnMan from the Moblin/MeeGo project was also brought up as a possible option.

- Phone modem back-ends, location-based services support, and other items are still very much a work in progress.

- A mailing list, Wiki, and IRC channel are being setup for Ubuntu phone development.

- The best of Apple iOS, Microsoft Windows Phone 7, and Google Android will be examined in the process of determining the requirements and features of Ubuntu for mobile phones.

From those that I have talked with so far about these Ubuntu expansion plans for mobile phones and other new form factors (including TVs) have not been overly optimistic. The trend is Canonical is trying to be the jack of all trades, while some say, not being the master of any trades. Ubuntu 14.04 LTS for mobile phones won't be out for another two years and it will be incredibly difficult for this Linux operating system to compete with the likes of Google's Android, Apple iOS, and even Microsoft Windows Phone.

If Ubuntu can succeed in this space, it will be incredible, but Moblin, MeeGo, Maemo, LiMo, OpenMoko, Bada, and other open-source / Linux projects have failed and so far nothing has been presented to make Ubuntu on these new devices more compelling than the previous mainstream Linux attempts.

With Ubuntu for mobile phones not really expected for another two years, many more details will emerge in the coming months. Even if Ubuntu for mobile phones manages to be a success, it will still be difficult for this project to reach 200 million users by the year 2015, as was laid out by Mark Shuttleworth earlier this year at the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Budapest. Until more information emerges, you can read about the UDS-P details from earlier today, Tuesday, and Monday.

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