Ubuntu For Tablets Announcement A Let Down
The countdown for the Ubuntu Tablet announcement that began yesterday is now over.
The Ubuntu.com web-site is getting slammed at the moment, but the page to go after is the Ubuntu Tablet page. This announcement isn't particularly exciting compared to what's already been known: basically Ubuntu is pushing for its Linux OS on tablet computers and they'll be showing off their tablet implementation later this week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. There isn't any Ubuntu tablet image to download right now or anything groundbreaking to share to warrant the countdown. It's just a soft-launch today without any hardware partners.
There was some speculation that the Ubuntu Tablet announcement was connected to HTC, perhaps an HTC Ubuntu Tablet. However, the countdown that just ended at the same time on HTC's web-site was about the new HTC One. The new HTC one sports dual frontal stereo speakers, an improved camera, full metal body construction, and other hardware improvements. The HTC One is powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600, 2GB of DDR2 memory, and 32GB/64GB storage capacity. This new HTC phone is running Android and not anything connected to Ubuntu.
Among the items the "Ubuntu on tablets" page is now promoting is "multi-tasking mojo", effortless navigation with magic edges, instant launch, the system at your service, and celebrating content and not controls. Ubuntu on Tablets is also promoting itself as "a whole world of apps" that aren't limited to HTML5 but native apps that are "blazingly fast." Upsetting some open-source fans may be that Ubuntu for tablets is promoting closed-source applications like Microsoft's Skype and services like Facebook.
Interestingly there are also hardware requirements for an Ubuntu-powered tablet and they're much higher than what one would expect. An "entry level consumer Ubuntu tablet" needs at least a dual-core ARM Cortex-A15, 2GB of memory preferred, at least 8GB of flash storage, and a 7~10 inch screen. The mandate on a "high-end Ubuntu enterprise tablet" is a quad-core ARM Cortex-A15 or Intel x86 CPU, 4GB of memory preferred, 8GB of flash storage at least, and 10~12 inch display. Being a Linux hardware enthusiast and all about the latest and greatest hardware, I love the ARM Cortex-A15 requirement over the A9s, but these requirements are rather high by today's standards especially for the entry-level tablet.
These hardware requirements also don't specify anything about the 3D/GPU requirements, which almost certainly mandate OpenGL ES acceleration, and for now that's only provided with ARM SoCs in a reasonable means by using closed-source graphics drivers. Canonical also doesn't have the weight at this point to force ARM SoC vendors to be more open-source friendly. Beyond that, the reverse-engineering Freedreno and Lima graphics drivers (among others) aren't yet in a state for proper support.
Below is a Canonical video that was just published to promote the Ubuntu Tablet. The Ubuntu Tablet developer preview image for the Google Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 devices will be available on Thursday.
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