The naysayers are going to get a bit riled up at this, but I have seen the future of tablets and the future is Ubuntu.
I've been testing and using tablets and smartphones for a long time now. One of the conclusions I've alwaysseemed to draw is that, if I'm being truly honest with myself, I very much prefer working on a desktop or laptop. Why? Because I can actually get my work done. Much of what I do is cumbersome (at best) on a mobile platform. Graphics, recording, document editing...the mobile platform has yet to serve those needs with any level of satisfaction.
Until now. Until Ubuntu.
I've tested the Ubuntu Unity 8/Mir preview release on a standard laptop and I can tell you this...it offered none of the "wow" that the bq Aquaris M10 tablet (running Ubuntu Touch) had to offer. Let me explain.
When I opened up the box, turned on the unit, and entered the usual information (name, security, location, blah blah) I was taken to the same interface I'd been using with the Ubuntu Touch smartphones I have in my possession. I've been very vocal that Ubuntu Touch is close, but still lacking. On the tablet side of Touch, things get a little easier to use. The interface makes a bit more sense.
It was time to dig around. The first thing to grab my attention was the inclusion of LibreOffice. Naturally I assumed it nothing more than a reader app (so you could view LibreOffice documents). I fired LibreOffice up and, much to my surprise, it was the full-blown app (Figure A).
LibreOffice running on the bq Aquaris M10 tablet.
The only issue with running the full-blown version of LibreOffice on the Ubuntu tablet is the toolbars, menus, etc. are on the small side of resolution, so you better have your 20/20 or your readers at the ready.
Next on the surprise list was The GIMP. That's right...the flagship, open source image editing application is ready to go on the Ubuntu tablet (Figure B).
Working some book cover magic on the Ubuntu tablet.
This isn't some watered-down, mobile version of The GIMP, this is the real deal. Everything you can do on the desktop version, you can do here.
The goodness continues on, in similar fashion, as I dig into the tablet. And then...I connected a wireless mouse and things get really, really interesting.
Convergence is real
The second the Ubuntu Tablet connects to the wireless mouse, it switches over to desktop mode. That's when the real "magic" happens. All of a sudden I'm working on a tablet that is in full multitasking mode. Windows act like windows...in the traditional sense (they can be resized, minimized, everyone you've grown used to on the desktop - Figure C).
The Ubuntu tablet in Desktop mode.
With the tablet in Desktop mode I can actually get my work done...in a similar, efficient manner as I would while standing at my desk. When I don't need the full power of the desktop, I can switch off my mouse and the tablet will automatically revert back to standard mode and I'm good to go.
The one caveat
You knew the system wasn't going to be perfect. The only issue with the Ubuntu Tablet is when you switch to Desktop mode, you lose some power. There's some significant lag in the cursor movement and apps don't open nearly as quickly. This is a tradeoff I'm willing to make, however, as I never expected a tablet to be able to run the likes of The GIMP with much in the way of speed found on the desktop. And considering Desktop mode is in its infancy, you know it will only improve as more updates are pushed to the devices.
If you're looking for a tablet that will allow you to get your work done, one that won't break your bank (the M10 currently runs for around $260.00 USD - purchase here), and one that can serve nearly all your needs (from mobile to desktop), the Ubuntu Tablet has you covered. Once Ubuntu Touch matures, this device will be a game changer...of that there is no doubt.
Canonical, I am seriously impressed.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.