Feb 21 AT 3:41 PM Edgar Cervantes 61 Comments

Ubuntu for Android; best bet at unifying the smartphone and desktop experience (Update: Video)


Mobile World Congress will have a plethora of Android goodness, but this one really calls our attention. We have been trying to find ways to replace the desktop computer experience with our phones. And if this is happening anytime soon, Canonical’s new revelation is what will make it happen. The Linux-based OS makers are ready to deploy Ubuntu for Android at Mobile World Congress, and it is looking very promising.

We have already tried to use laptop docks, desktop docks, tablets with keyboards, and some people have gone as far as hacking Android devices and installing full desktop linux operating systems on them. But none of these are able to do the job. You either lose some smartphone functionality, or the desktop functionality is not up to par.

Canonical has just revealed that their Ubuntu for Android is almost ready, and it looks like the best option for those that want to unify the smartphone and desktop computing experiences. Unbuntu for Android is mentioned to work in parallel to Android. Meaning that the phone would run both operating systems.

Ubuntu will kick in when the phone is plugged into a monitor, mouse and keyboard. As soon as that phone is disconnected, it will go back to its natural Android OS. Think of it as a dual-booting device, with both Ubuntu and Android in its core.

This is not an Ubuntu app on an Android phone. Rather, it's a way to have the full Android experience when you use your device as a phone and the full Ubuntu experience when it's docked, complete with the full suite of productivity apps and tools from the desktop.Jane SilberCanonical CEO

What is great is that both operating systems will share the same documents. All of your music, videos, contacts, messages, calls and other data will be accessible from either state, giving the smartphone/computer a seamless and unified experience.

Things are not as easy as they seem, though. As Silber states, it is not just an app. Ubuntu will have to come preloaded on smartphones. Canonical didn’t make any statements about any manufacturer partnerships, but this sure seems like a huge step. CEO Jane Silber said “it really depends on them. We’re ready to go.”

As expected, this will remain free, so some manufacturers better get up on this soon. There will be demonstrations and announcements regarding Ubuntu for Android, at Mobile World Congress. Next week’s presentations will be based on Ubuntu 11.10 “Oneiric Ocelot,” but the software will be improved by April, with the release of Ubuntu 12.04 “Precise Pangolin.”

Definitely stay tuned for this one, as it will likely change mobile computing substantially. Would any of you ditch your computers for a phone with Ubuntu? Do you think there is a chance that Microsoft will bring something similar to its Windows phones, with a full desktop Windows OS when plugged in to a monitor? Now that would make Windows Phone devices enticing.


The Ubuntu team has gone ahead and put together a nice video displaying what Ubuntu for Android is capable of. We have to say that this looks very promising, but we would have liked to see the presenter test out some non-Android-related tasks. But it certainly looks like a much better and intuitive desktop setting, and we assume things won’t be cut down too much.

The video shows how Android apps can be run in the desktop, how the information is shared, and other general demonstrations. So check it out to see what things will be like. Can’t wait to test this out!

Via: PC World

Source: Ubuntu

Hello, I am Edgar Cervantes. I am an avid Android fan, and keeping myself updated on the topic is part of my daily life. I will always work hard to give the best of me to our community of Android enthusiasts, and I am very honored to be part of this ship. Hopefully we can all enjoy sharing our knowledge and opinions!

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  • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

    I am TOTALLY wanting this! SOOO glad I have a Galaxy Nexus now – I bet we’ll see it on this as one of the first phones, even if it’s custom-hacked in!

    • ArticulateFool

      I am also loving the fact that I own a gnex.

      As soon as I see an opportunity to test this out, I will jump right on it!

    • Jeff Pan

      I am pretty sure Google is already working on doing this with Chrome OS and Android.

      I am pretty sure Apple would try this with iOS/OSx and Microsoft with WP8/Windows 8

      • fxle

        1. Microsoft is dumbifying UI to Metro, their app store only model, and absolutely no normal UI apps available for ARM version. Fail.

        2. Apple can do better but don’t expect anything than Mac Store applications to run. I think they are

        3. Google might try with Chrome OS, which is more of an experiment than a true desktop OS.

        This already looks decent. Application ecosytem is there because most of Linux software is open source and easily available on ARM. Integration in this Ubuntu version seems very well done well for a “1.0″. The whole Idea has a lot of merit, since it transforms a pocket toy into a PC, providing a LOT of added value to the user. Especially if manufacturers bite and deliver this off the shelf (modders certainly will).

    • sunrise

      I believe they are using a Motorola Atrix in the video.

      • http://mihai.discuta-liber.com/ tmihai20

        Yeah, it looked like a Motorola phone (I thought of Atrix too). This is looking really sweet. I wonder if it will work for phones with USB OTG adapters somehow. I don’t know how many phones are out there with docking stations that allow using a monitor. It would stop many Android fans from using it.

    • Andrew

      But the Nexus does not have usb AND hdmi. Is there a solution ?

      • Taylor Martin

        Use an MHL adapter. MHL is micro USB to HDMI, and some adapters have an additional microUSB port for charging while you stream HD video to an external monitor.

        • Andrew


  • spazby

    I think Microsoft has a really good chance to introduce a full pc experience on a cell phone with complete windows integration. that said, i think they will royally screw it up and google will eventually find a way to unite pc and android…

    • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

      I totally agree that Microsoft has a great opportunity for this (have been saying this for at least a year). HOWEVER, based on the inside rumors that I hear, it’s not going to start happening until Windows 9 which clearly means that others will have accomplished this first.

      Once we see “full pc experience on a cell phone” take off, then products like the Padfone, the Transformer, Motorola Webdock, and other “integrated” products like that will start to put laptops out of business. Unfortunately, we simply don’t yet have an OS that makes it just work right now. Android on a large screen is pretty bad (Cornerstone helps a lot) and the same can be said with others, or if you put PC OSes on a small screen, they equally don’t work.

      I keep telling myself, “Patience, young grasshopper. Patience…”

    • crickerman

      we’ll have to wait and see what they do with windows 8/windows phone 8…..

    • Lucian Armasu

      Microsoft has no advantage whatsoever in this – certainly not more than Google. All Google needs is for Android to look for “desktop-ish” once it is docked. And ICS already looks like that a bit, but it could certainly be even more optimized for it in this situation.

      The potential “advantage” you talk about for Microsoft would only work if you would be using an x86-based smartphone. But who wants that when even Atom is still several times less efficient than Krait?

      The point is the future is ARM, and these sort of “tricks” will only make ARM more popular in the desktop ecosystem. And on ARM Microsoft has absolutely no advantage over Android, and will always stay behind in hardware technology, just like with WP7, because of the way they are set-up.

  • Owain

    I would much rather have this than Android and Chrome OS. Just so I can play Hedgewars.

  • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

    Was just looking more into this and I found one disappointing hardware requirement: USB Host Mode. Unless I’m mistaken (and if I am, PLEASE correct me!) but the large majority of phones out there do NOT support this.

    (prays that he’s wrong)

    • Lox

      All android dual core support this. This is a core feature of android since 2.3

      • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

        REALLY? I had no clue! Thanks for the education. :-)

    • Jeremy Sheehan

      The requirements are met by any new mid to high end phone out there right now. Personally, I think this would be freaking amazing. I can’t wait to have this on my phone!

  • MoSDeeb

    This will be great to use while at work instead of being stuck to only windows XP all day long.

  • xsynth

    I’d definitely use this.
    Maybe in the future it would be great to have the option of installing different OS’s, I still need windows for games (and with win8 being arm compatible there’s a chance), but choice is always a good thing

  • Sid

    I definitely would! But, this wouldn’t be my main phone :)

  • Meister_Li

    While this is pretty cool, I recently used Ubuntu on my Laptop and while it has it’s strengths, it’s really weak in other aspects. It seems for example that a good unified messenger program is completely absent from Desktop-Linux. Most of them work only semi-well or not at all. Even Android has many better offerings there. We’ll see where this goes, I suppose.

  • Chahk

    This is exactly what Motorola tried to do with lapdocs, but failed miserably with their outdated and heavily bastardized Linux build. If anyone can pull off a real desktop replacement, it’s Canonical with Ubuntu. I just hope they don’t leave it at the mercy of manufacturers and carriers, because we all know how eager those are at giving customers what they want! /sarcasm off

  • Lox

    The post is wrong. This is NOT dual booting! It is clearly said on their page that it will share the same kernel so hopefully no need to reboot in ubuntu mode. Ubuntu will launch in parallel.

    It can be a simple app but that will most probably need kernel changes. Which can be done on any android device that has an unlockable bootloader.

    Really looking forward to it as it is definitely the future! The next Nexus will rock with such a feature.

  • Alex Belko

    This is really very exciting! as the progress of android is following these predefined steps, it’s just a matter of time all computers will unite in our hand

  • Cruellyricisti

    Personally I think Google should sign on with this. Incorporate it into jellybean and patent the idea of having a mobile os load a desktop os when plugged into a display. Do not wait until microsoft has an answer for it. And do NOT leave it up to the Carriers and OEM’s to decide if they are with it. This is the future of computing. It is an excellent move on Canonical’s part. Now lets see if the mobile world bites. And to those that may think the Carriers have nothing to do with it think again, I’m sure none of the big four are standing in line to allow a mobile phone to consume data at the rate of a desktop computer. Which it can easily do if it incorporated Ubuntu’s browser.

    • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

      FYI, Microsoft has been working on this in Windows 9 for a while.

      • Cruellyricisti

        Sources please?

        • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

          No sources that I can share nor any that I’m aware of that I can link you to. This claim is based on private conversations with Microsoft devs. Expect to see some convergence between WP9 and Windows 9 but don’t expect it for WP8/Win8.

          Point being, though, that Google filing for a patent now is too late as Microsoft has already began work on this a while ago. However, with the way our patent system is totally broken, maybe that’s not entirely a true statement.

          BTW, I just did some quick googling and found this. Not a source of mine but apparently somebody else has claimed this long before now. I have NO clue what is behind that article but this isn’t exactly new news.

  • deckoff

    This is HUGE! I own 2 androids all my PC run Ubuntu (only one dual-boots). Ubuntu is taking giant steps towards fast and intuitive user experience with every new release, and the best part of it is that the screenshot shows some android apps running.
    Best part is – no need for solutions for desktop syncing or anything else – all is just there, contacts, files and all

    • telos104

      Do you use any of your PCs running Ubuntu as a HTPC? If so, is it version 11.10?

  • Dragonithe

    I want this on the transformer prime :)

    • deckoff

      This would be killer – a Transformer-prime docking station!!!
      When The phone is pushed in , you get a laptop, when out – a phone

  • RRR

    Can anyone comment about their experience with Fujitsu purely Windows7 phone?


  • Anuj Singh Tomar

    cool .. but will i be able to use mainstream ubuntu desktop applications like netbeans/eclispse etc .. as i doubt the phone will be having a fan to dissipate the heat .. or if i am assumed to just use this setup for web browsing and watching movies i am better off to my android device !!

  • Trinhbo

    This would be cool if you could store Eclipse and ADT on your phone and then be able to develop apps for Android right from your phone and then test it on the fly.

    • Kelly

      I want to run this, just so I can test an Android app in the emulator on Ubuntu running on Android.

      • Baller

        And you thought the emulator was slow before…..Can’t imagine this would perform well but hey more power to you. Sounds awesome overall though.

  • Lekz

    Weirdest thing… while cooking sometime last week, I was thinking to myself “It would be cool if google and canonical somehow collaborated to bring a ‘true’ mobile computer?” Then this.

  • Dags -

    Am I the only one who thinks the latest version of Ubuntu is a bit crap compared to earlier versions? It’s mainly the Unity shell, which is woeful. I realize you can use Gnome 3 instead (which I do) but my point is that if they can’t get the desktop right, how do they expect to get mobile right?

  • EspadaA

    Sounds great but I would like to see it on tablets.like the transformer prime now that would. Be really awesome with the keyboard

  • jamal adam

    This is awesome.

  • kwills88

    Think this would work out great for both android and unbuntu, Android has a chance to leap the competition even more, and people will get more familiarize with what unbuntu is, though it’s been around awhile it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.

  • cthonctic

    Nice, I will definitely check this out, although I’m not too fond of Ubuntu’s Unity DE and hope someone can hack Gnome3 / Gnome-shell into it instead.

    Still, a bit sad that this’ll have to be baked directly into a ROM instead of somehow installing beside the native Android at a later date.

  • Lyude

    I’m not very fond of Ubuntu, however, this is a fantastic idea, I’ve been waiting for a long time for something like this to happen. It’s very nice to see full-featured Linux distros come onto mobile phones and have a chance at fame too

    • Lyude

      Ah, looks like I spoke too soon, seems it’s dual boot. I was hoping for a compatibility layer of some sort… heh, still interesting. I just hope this doesn’t mean the end of my desktop :c.

  • prakreet

    I want to point out some errors in this post..
    “Unbuntu for Android is mentioned to work in parallel to Android”
    it is not unbuntu but ubuntu.

    “Think of it as a dual-booting device, with both Ubuntu and Android in its core”
    I know that u tried explaining it to non-techies in this way. But the fact is that android runs the same linux kernel as all the linux distros albeit with some modifications. But from linux kernel 3.2 onwards all the modifications in android will be present in the linux kernel as well. So a linux kernel will run unmodified on all android handsets.

    Thus there is no need for dual booting. Since the same kernel is powering both android and ubuntu. The result is that ubuntu will be up the second u plug it to a dock and android will be up and running the second u undock it.. Sweet isn’t it..

  • prakreet
  • teudster

    This is the COOLEST I have seen in a while, and I thought the webtop idea was cool this BLOWS that idea way out of proportion. BRING ON THE HARDWARE !! You know we want a lapdock a la Atrix for this.

  • Schmidty850

    This looks super awesome!! I would definitely love to try this out as it looks super cool. Hopefully it would work with other phones too though, not just motorola with desktop dock :/

  • prakreet

    Microsoft would definitely bring this feature to future windows phone OSes. This is the perfect thing for them to get an edge over android. As of now Windows phone is not very exciting. But combine it with Windows desktop and there are many who would switch over just for the desktop. With the amount of apps for the windows desktop, we have a tough competition in our hands.

    MS is approximately 2 years(no sources to verify) behind on such an integration as this. That’s all the time we have got to get Android & Ubuntu integration perfect and appealing to the masses.

    Users give this announcement the publicity it needs. Developers please develop apps for this. We love android (&Ubuntu) and want to see the green robot alive n kicking for a long time to come. We don’t want another monopoly..

  • http://None Javier Bastardo

    I would LOVE this to be done in a Android/ChromeOS pairing, but, as an Ubuntu and Android user myself who can’t personally wait for Precise Pangolin and finally have an smartphone with ICS, all I can say is YES, OMG! YES!

  • jfgen

    Its awesome! I so want one!

  • Jorge Encarnação

    Its the best news I’ve heard since the beggining of the year!

  • cypher

    With Intel Medfield phones coming out eventually wouldn’t it be possible to run x86 windows 7 or even x86 windows 8 using the chip?

    You could then have an Asus Padfone / Atrix system where you can dock the phone into a 10 inch tablet (padfone) or put it in a laptop/desktop dock (Atrix) to run windows and use android when you’re not docked.

    Atom for mobile should only get better when Intel goes to the 22nm process and maybe if they put a better gpu (low power version of the hd4000 in ivy bridge or even the new G6200 or G6400 with the rogue architecture which is the successor to the current SGX 540) we could be playing GTA5 at 720p on medium quality at 30fps.

    Now that is a phone I will stand in line for.

  • kzlife

    Vid removed by user :/
    Anyone got a link to another video? really wanna see :(

  • WlfHart

    I think I could actually replace my laptop with this product!

  • Brett

    Dont know if this is the same video but looks like it anyway:

  • Glenn

    If X Driver (X Window 11) is builded on top of same Linux kernel, then everything could happen!
    I just hope it is not using VNC or Virtual Box. The details…. we still waiting!

  • Androidicus_Maximus

    um, yes please!!!!

  • donger

    wow, looks awesome.