Linux optimize

How Canonical's next moves could repaint the Linux landscape

Jack Wallen highlights how Canonical and Ubuntu are going to totally revolutionize the Linux landscape in the upcoming months. Will mass acceptance follow?

I'll preface this by saying that I realize I've been writing about Ubuntu/Canonical quite a lot lately. There is a good reason for this -- Ubuntu 12.04 should bring about some major changes to both the Linux desktop landscape as well as the way people looking outside-in view Linux. How is that you ask? Outside of the bits and pieces I've already mentioned (HUD and various improvements to Unity), Canonical is planning on three major additions to the Linux-verse that could easily be a complete reversal of fortune (to the tune of the late Steve Jobs miraculously re-joining Apple).

Those three additions are:

  • Ubuntu on Android
  • Ubuntu TV
  • Ubuntu on tablets

Let's take a look at just how these new bits of tech could seriously change the way consumers and users look at Linux.

Ubuntu on Android

Many of us have tried docks for our mobile handsets. Most often they fall short of being, well, useful. Canonical is hoping to revolutionize this with Ubuntu on Android. What is this? Simple:

When you plug your Android device into the dock, you will enjoy a full-blown Ubuntu Linux desktop. When you remove the Android from the dock, your mobile device will return to the standard Android platform.

It gets better.

  • Both devices will share the same documents.
  • All multimedia files will be accessible from either state.
  • All calls, messages, and other data will also be accessible from either state.

Ubuntu on Android will be the first truly integrated mobile/desktop environment.

Ubuntu TV

I have seriously high hopes for this. Imagine, a TV experience with a full-blown desktop interface that offers:

  • Streaming video
  • On-line box office
  • Broadcast
  • Time shift
  • Personal cloud
  • Apps
  • Disk media

... all in a single box.

Imagine your TV, powered by Ubuntu with Ubuntu One and The Ubuntu Software Center ready to go. That is Ubuntu TV. It's an intelligent DVR with much more.

Ubuntu on tablets

Shuttleworth has been promising this for a while now (since the advent of Unity) and it looks like, within the next year, this will come to fruition. As everyone here in the TechRepublic-verse knows, I'm a big fan of the Android Tablet. I love my Verizon-branded Galaxy Tablets. But the second I can have a tablet with Ubuntu powering the device, I will be there. The Unity interface was designed for the tablet and the touchscreen. And having the entire Ubuntu software catalog ready for installation, will make for some serious mobile power.

What really makes this exciting (in a similar vein to that of Ubuntu on Android) is that the tablet will most likely (and seamlessly) integrate with the Ubuntu desktop and Ubuntu One.

I realize I've made a major shift from my position regarding Canonical and Ubuntu (once Unity was released)... but these things happen. Ubuntu has had a serious plan all along, one that not all of us were able to see from the initial release of Unity. Now that plan is becoming clear and that plan is powerful and could possibly bring Linux closer to mass acceptance than it has ever been.

I applaud Canonical and Ubuntu for what it is doing for the Linux desktop and platform. The future is looking incredibly bright for an operating system many predicted would just fade into the sunset. With Canonical repainting the Linux landscape, the sky is the limit.

About

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 getjackd.net.

38 comments
Old Dog V
Old Dog V

After using Windows since 3.10, Ubuntu since Hardy Heron, I've prefered the more traditional desktops. Win in "Classic"mode, and the equivalant classic w/Ubuntu 11.10. We will see in 12.04, maybe it will work, depending on "Classic" availability, or Cinnamon on either Mint or Ubuntu, or maybe Mint w/xfce. I don't often need to carry a $300. toy around, if I do, my old Acer 5050 w/Classic 11.10 will do. I don't like finger-painting my way through a bunch of icons, I want a mouse and drop-down (or pop-up?) menus in text!! I read better than I can remember more than a 1/2 dozen mostly moronic icons.

cwarner7_11
cwarner7_11

As a long time Ubuntu user, I am staying with 10.04 for as long as I can, then will probably look to Redhat or some other distro that is more focused on User requirements. Unity doesn't work with my scientific graphics apps. I am too busy trying to make a living to be bothered with trying every new gimmick Canonical or Microsoft care to throw out there.

jsbosco
jsbosco

Unity is a step backwards! TV... Android docking... Tablet OS's... this sounds like marketing 'Bait and Switch' crap to me. I need a powerful, capable COMPUTER! I cut my linux teeth on Ubuntu 8 thru 10. [and loved it]. I jumped to Mint [and i'm currently loving it!]

rjengler
rjengler

I used to hate Unity when it first was introduced, but a lot of the bugs seem to be worked out and I've gotten used to how it works and I find I like the interface now. I added several custom Quicklists and now find the interface to be very functional. Also, after working with the Windows 8 preview release for a while I have a new appreciation on how much better Unity is for everyday desktop and laptop use.

soltesza
soltesza

I believe Ubuntu For Android is the best of the new products/features from Canonical. First of all, I don't think that Ubuntu alone is capable to properly serve all of the phone/tablet use-case scenarios, simply because traditional applications are not designed for touch input & small screens, and properly supporting those requirements in all applications would be an immense development undertaking. For the typical tablet, Android is mostly perfect for non-docked use. For the docked-tablet/netbook with mouse/touchpad scenario, however, Ubuntu is the proper solution, not Android. A limited solution like Motorola's Webtop is worth nothing, since this will be used by power-users and those will not be satisfied with a limited desktop. The two user interface systems would nicely complement each other. It is not a surprise, that Google is planning some kind of Desktop Mode for Jelly Bean. Ubuntu TV is interesting but it will have a big impact only if it comes built-in with some high-volume, cheap set-top boxes (the Mele A1000 comes in mind).

ivank2139
ivank2139

I can stand to use Unity once I removed that System Menu nonsense that puts the application menus on the top System bar. As long as I can customize it for that issue the rest seems to be okay. I plan a complete reinstall of my main workstation when 12.04 comes out. This is really to fix disk configuration issues into two raid setups, one for the OS on 2 mirrored SSDs and the other the main array of 4 2 TB disks.

Freshmeadow
Freshmeadow

I have been using Linux (Knoppix, Kanotix, Ubuntu, openSUSE and Debian) on my personal computers since 2006. When Unity first surfaced in Ubuntu 10.10 I too was skeptical, but with the improvements in versions 11.04, 11.10 and now the 12.04 beta 2 I am simply blown away by how far it has come. If Canonical keeps heading in this direction I believe they will make a big splash for the Linux desktop/laptop/tablet experience. I say more power to them. Linux and open source is about choice. If Unity is not your cup of tea, use another desktop or distro. Cheers from Guelph, Ontario.

aroc
aroc

However, on a desktop scale monitor, it's a hindrance as many have noted. That is why the idea of docking Android to a desktop is about ridiculous - how are you going to do all that "touchy/feely control" without developing back and shoulder problems (for us aging 'boomers at least), if the monitor is even a touchscreen? I do look forward to checking out Unity in general with Ubuntu 12.04 (after the "public beta", known as public release, starting later this month, shakes out the worst bugs) on my Fujitsu p1620 convertible notebook with its 8.9" touch screen (resistive fortunately - not that twitchy capacitive foolishness on a bigger screen). Match the interface to the target. YMMV

roy.evison
roy.evison

Tablets have come a long way but can't find one reasonably priced in the UK. If you had one you would want to plug into a decent sized display to do any decent viewing or computing. What is all the fuss about? Money? No surely not. We all have to pay our way but the move (faith) towards tablets seems like a gamble. I'm not against "progress" but if you loose features you had on a previous GUI then I get the hump, I'm thinking of the panel on Mint and others, it just makes you, or perhaps only I, run for the likes of lxfce or gnome2. Roy.

todd_dsm
todd_dsm

[u]Android[/u] Android is already based on Ubuntu. [u]Tablets[/u] I believe tablets are over rated as well but - there are over a gajillion people that are using them happily. I don't get it nor do I think I ever will but ignoring those that do use them seems a bit counter to the pragmatic side of my brain that says, "Give 'em what they want." [u]TV[/u] This I wholly support. I own a TV but it's not hooked up to cable, or anything else for that matter. Again, it seems important to a few folks out there and, as such, can be improved greatly. We all know the problem: DRM; here, it's a 2-sided problem though: 1) Without DRM, content providers (HBO, Warner Bros, NBC, etc) just don't feel comfortable letting their content out to the greedy hands that want it bad enough to steal it for free. They (hopefully) already know that, if you can pay-for and watch it, you can also capture it and seed it. No content provider would sleep at night with these concerns floating around their heads, nor should they. Try paying $100M for a summer block-buster just to have it shared freely to the internet during the first week of theatrical release. Personally, I drive used cars because I don't have the guts to spend $40k on a new one to lose $5k in value just for the privilege of driving it off the lot. 2) Linux users are the greatest DRM detractors known to man. Instead of embracing DRM as "just another engineering problem" they (we) have historically chosen to wish the problem away. Or, at very least, treat it like a software problem; IE: "everything should be free". This just doesn't work with content or the providers. The thought that nags me is that there must be some young genius (Linux developer) out there that could have fixed this problem for us long ago. And, that we could have taken the development lead with DRM as we have with so many other things, in order to control its direction. But we, as a user-base, just repel the idea because it does not jive with out sensibilities. Perhaps Canonical has found this young genius. Because without DRM, content will remain as it is: "owned" - period. Fix the DRM problem and my hat's off to them. It's the toughest nut to crack.

paulfx1
paulfx1

The only way Canonical is ever going to repaint the Linux landscape is if they show up at Linus' house with a bucket of Dutch Boy and a brush!

hardslog
hardslog

A cheap laptop is more flexible than a tablet? For $250 you can get an Acer Iconia Tablet. It has a full sized USB port (plug in wireless keyboard or mouse), or connect bluetooth keyboard and mouse and use the USB to connect a portable hard drive. Use the HDMI connector to connect it to a TV or a monitor. Install an application that creates and edits any Microsoft Office file. For $3.50 you can get an application where you can electronically capture signatures on PDF files, not to mention edit them. No more need to print, sign, and scan back to send to somebody. 8+ hours battery without plugging it in. Change the language to ANYTHING you want. Physically write Chinese as an input method. Printing applications where you can print directly from the tablet. You can also install applications that can turn your tablet into a second monitor for your desktop computer. Hmmmm for $250 that sounds MORE flexible that a laptop to me, at a fraction of the cost.

john
john

.. and while the colors are pretty, it is hard to use and impossible to configure. Give me the Unity interface on an Unbuntu tablet and it may feel right at home, but on the desktop I will either stick with XFCE or hold out and see what Mint will offer.

sysop-dr
sysop-dr

When will they have preview tablets available for developers to start making apps for?

cflange
cflange

Why wait for the Ubuntu Tablet, if you can have your multi-touch enabled KDE Tablet this summer. Just watch the Make-Play-Live site (http://makeplaylive.com/) for news when you can order your Linux Tablet with Plasma Active for only $260.

alzie
alzie

I want to jump into the tablet thing soon. I just wish i knew which ones to which Ubu will be ported. I guess its kinda like net books. It took a little while, but it looks like most of em are supported. I love Xubuntu on my eeepc 900, also the new Android X86. A little more horse power would allow Unity, and i presume that the new tabs will be able to cut it. I probably will buy the Google / Asus tab this summer.

Alienyak
Alienyak

The only way that there will be any Ubuntu tablets is if you can get a manufacturer to build and supply the Ubuntu version of a Tablet. With the market flooded by new tablets everyday, I just hope that Canonical can find the ideal manufacturers to supply an Ubuntu version, because most end users won't go through the process and install it on their own. I really hope that Canonical can make a viable Open source option because look at WebOS. I had high hopes for that OS, but they were too quick to throw in the towel because of the Corporate investment. At least with Ubuntu, we know it is open source and does not rely heavily upon profits in the first year of life.

pgit
pgit

Will ubuntu provide a touch-enabled version of gnome 3 for tablets? Gnome 3 (shell) looks like it was made for touch, and the work flow it induces is exceptional, quite a leap in desktop ergonomics. I would hold off on any tablet until it can run a full-featured Linux distro and gnome 3 is enabled for touch.

george
george

I am a current user of an Android Tablet. The mobility aspect is nice, but there are occasions when a full blown desktop would be a benefit. I would definitely risk flashing my gtablet over to a linux distro to give it a try. I would love to see compiled binaries running on the arm processors instead of JIT java apps hosted on a linux core. I do agree with cjc5447; I have not adopted the "new" desktops. They are not functional on multiple monitors and seem to impede work instead of speed up work. I am thinking they will fair better on tablets and touchscreens, but the verdict is still out.

dylanstip
dylanstip

Ubuntu needs to make a more concerted effort with app developers if they're ever going to get a critical mass of users Love the new unity changes but the marketplace still needs polish and critically apps lots and lots of them

cjc5447
cjc5447

Unity blows chunks, at least on a normal desktop. We'll see how it performs on a tablet, but one size does not fit all. The worst part of Unity is the inistence on aping MacOS X with a top mounted menu. There's a couple of problems with that: first it requires modification of existing apps, second is it is a step backward for usability, why should I have to move the mouse cursor to the top of the screen to choose a menu item? It is even worse on a multi-monitor setup, almost unusable in fact. I'm moving to Linux Mint/Cinnamon, and not planning on buying a tablet very soon either. Really you can do more on a cheap laptop, not quite as convenient, but more flexible and usable (a physical keyboard is always better than a virtual screen keyboard). Why is everyone falling all over themselves to spend more money for less functionality?

CodeCurmudgeon
CodeCurmudgeon

This sounds great for non-desktop platforms, but on the desktop, have they fixed the workplace switcher? The 11.04 & 11.10 versions were a PITA.

hbates
hbates

Ubuntu has been making some really smart moves lately, and I think its marketplace presence is only just beginning. Brilliant stuff coming out of Canonical lately.

aaronjsmith21
aaronjsmith21

I agree that Ubuntu seems to be pushing the limits on the everyday needs for long time users. I am also sticking with 10.04 as best as I can. It is getting harder though do to the overwhelming apps that seems to be built with newer versions of Ubuntu in mind, one big one I have hit is the upgrade in Qt versions and the work around needed to get it to work on 10.04. I just wish Ubuntu could make it so users of the older versions of Ubuntu that do upgrades to newer versions would by default keep their current setup, and even on a new install allow users to use gnome by default if they wanted. But I do give them props for being on the edge and trying to move forward.

shyisc
shyisc

Is if Ubuntu TV could also funtion as a game console. I understand Canonical is merely releasing an OS to be embedded in TVs and set top boxes (STB), but it should support installation when the hardware is capable of it and support running apps from a removable media without installation, in case it is possible to insert or otherwise connect such media, like DVDs or USB sticks. This may require the software to be compiled to other architectures, but perhaps they can get around it by using a virtaul environment similar to Java, only using the x86 architecture to allow normal x86 games to run on a non-x86 processor. If so they can package the best games that are already available for Ubuntu and sell them, both as digital downloads and and physical copies. Other things that could be supremely awesome would be Steam and its full library of Linux games (including the ones that are in the process of being ported) and Onlive.

aaronjsmith21
aaronjsmith21

Ubuntu has already stated that Both Ubuntu and Android use the same kernel, many Linux OS's use the same kernel. May Linux Distro's have been spin-offs of others. As far as you saying the table is over rated, lets take a closer look, how many consumes or business people actually do anything that can not be done on a table, or even your android phone. Not many. So its popularity is due to: 1. Portability 2. Functionality 3. Usefulness And having a full blown desktop available on a tablet I think will solve your issue with having to carry around your laptop, just get a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard! As far is DRM, ditto! FIX IT!

TNT
TNT

But wrong. Ubuntu is the future of Linux today because of their efforts to bring Linux to multiple markets.

shyisc
shyisc

The interface on Ubuntu Desktop was designed for netbooks and desktops. Ubuntu TV, as demoed, will have a media center interface. You can be sure Ubuntu Phone and Tablet will also have a unique interfaces. All those interfaces are Unity. That's why it is called Unity: the same tech and a familiar interface of every device. However, while the interface will be familiar, it will be tailored to suit the device. On the desktop the global menu sometimes exhibits quirky behavior, window switching is not as good as it should be, and browsing applications is also bothersome. If these flaws can be corrected Unity will be awesome. As far as configuration options are concerned, Unity is still young. You cannot expect it to have all the same cusomisability features as a mature product.

dragonbite
dragonbite

Unity was a good response to the already changing landscape. Gnome 2 was on the outs so it was a choice of taking the heat and be limited by what the Gnome guys do, or start Unity and control which direction it goes (truly tablet, TV, phone). Gnome, Windows even OS X is all becoming more tablet-orientated and I think they've done a pretty good job considering. I think Unity is better suited to the desktop than Windows 8! I usually criticize them, but at the same time I have to acknowledge that they are doing some necessary bold moves to get to where they are in the industry. Just as they can't out-Red-Hat Red Hat, they also cannot increase Linux's market share by doing the same-old same-old. Do what you always do and you'll get what you always got! Right or wrong, good or bad at least they are trying.

vat0r
vat0r

"why should I have to move the mouse cursor to the top of the screen to choose a menu item?" Hit alt, type the first couple letters of your desired menu item and bam. Much faster than the point and click menu system. 12.04 is already way ahead of 11.x in many areas so give it a try before mint etc.

AlexNagy
AlexNagy

I've spent considerable time trying to get used to Unity (and the slow lock-out from the base system with every new update) and I'm hating it. I was seriously considering 12.04LTS to slow down the integration of these features but I'm seriously considering a return to Gentoo or FreeBSD or checking out Mint or Slackware. I've 12.04LTS Beta 2 on a LiveUSB stick to check it out and I so far don't see anything to impress me (same crappy base software (RhythmBox blows chunks compared to Amarok). Am I being too harsh?

lord_beavis
lord_beavis

Unity does have some issues and to be honest, I haven't done that much with it to see how customizable it is as my primary machine runs Slackware. As for the "falling all over themselves to spend more money for less functionality" I blame Apple.

shyisc
shyisc

You can have it as your default session in 12.04. It's very close to the original Gnome-Panel experience.

aroc
aroc

I suppose by that criterion I should stay away from antiX since its main developer goes by that handle "anticapitalista", and makes no bones about his political stance (I hold my nose, and check it out once in a while ;-) - not to say I confuse "capitalism" with "free enterprise" as the Communists were quite obsessed with controlling capital for the "good of the proletariat" ) Besides, the Israeli government (Lefebvre's concern, not Judaism per se) is not exactly spotless, as is true of many other governments of countries hosting other distros - what axe are you grinding?

shyisc
shyisc

I didn't notice before. Now I will no longer even think of checking it out, let alone actually use it.