Linux

Tick, tock, tablet tease: Are we closer to an Ubuntu tablet?

Canonical revealed their Ubuntu Tablet interface recently. To many the announcement seemed a bit premature as there is still no manufacturer or carrier. Jack Wallen offers his take on both the announcement and the product.

Last week, both Ubuntu.com and HTC.com had countdown timers ticking down to nearly the same moment. Many of us professional speculators assumed it was going to be (at least in my opinion) a marriage made in heaven. HTC makes some of the best mobile hardware and Ubuntu had some serious mobile mojo up their sleeve. The Ubuntu counter had the headline "Tick, tock, tablet!"

So convinced was I, I had this all ready to post:

The count-down is one. Just over an hour away and Ubuntu will be making a big announcement. That announcement? Most likely the first-ever, official Ubuntu tablet will arrive. What is even more interesting about this is that HTC is, very likely, in on the shenanigans.

Take a look at both the Ubuntu.com and htc.com websites (Figures A and B). Both sites have a count-down timer with exactly the same time ticking down. Coincidence? I think not. This has to be Ubuntu counting down to the big HTC press release that was thought to be primarily geared toward the HTC M7 Phone.

We already have heard plenty of news about the Ubuntu Phone – but the Ubuntu Tablet (something that was promised when the Unity interface was released) is somewhat new. But it makes perfect sense. Ubuntu has developed a platform ideal for smartphones – why wouldn't they take it to the next level and bring that platform to the tablet market?

This marriage between HTC and Ubuntu also makes perfect sense. HTC has already proved it's ready to make a major leap into the open source arena with it's Bootloader Initiative (an unlocked bootloader). From my perspective, this will be a huge leap ahead for the tablet market. The Ubuntu interface, I firmly believe, will be a serious game changer – and having (what I hope will be) a complete Linux stack underneath the UI will bring some serious power and flexibility to the world of tablets.

Boy was I wrong! The timers ticked down to zero and the announcements were simple:

  • Ubuntu has a tablet interface ready and begs for a hardware vendor to pick it up!
  • HTC releases the most amazing technological device to ever hit the market!

I exaggerated a bit.

I am not surprised at the announcement on Ubuntu's part. In fact -- no one was. Was this really worth the tease? And, to make matters more conspiratorial, was it worth putting a count-down timer nearly in sync with HTC's? I think not. But, even though the tease led many of us astray, it was still worth seeing an official announcement about something Mark Shuttleworth had already promised he'd deliver...

A Linux tablet.

Now, don't misunderstand me -- you won't find a Linux tablet available yet. Canonical has to first find a hardware vendor to pony up for the tech. By the time that happens, the UI will certainly feel like it's been around the block a few times (instead of marrying an untested operating system to a new piece of hardware).

Don't get me wrong -- this is still big news. Canonical (and Ubuntu) is making good on a lot of promises. And if the Ubuntu Phone delivers what Canonical promises, it will be a game changer. The same thing could easily hold for the tablet.

There is one caveat (wrapped within a caveat). This is not an entire Linux stack on a tablet device. What Ubuntu is going to deliver is CyanogenMod with Unity on top of it. That means it's an Android kernel  (which, of course, is a Linux-based kernel). Because it already has the Android underpinnings, the Ubuntu phone and tablets will be able to easily communicate with other Ubuntu devices as well as desktop machines. This is open source at its finest -- one device uses open source, creates a world-wide phenomenon, and then another product gets based on that project and (hopefully) will take the world by another (albeit smaller) storm.

But for those hoping to get a pure-bred Linux-tablet experience... the Ubuntu-based tablet will not be for you.

To that end, I wouldn't mind seeing this re-branded as the Unity Phone and Tablet. It's less, oh, misleading.

Regardless of what kernel runs the Ubuntu Phone and Tablet, I'm all for it. The Unity interface should make a grand experience on the mobile platform. Now all that is left is a manufacturer and carrier to pick up the project and run with it. Until then, the Ubuntu Phone and Tablet are just projects for those willing to chance bricking their devices.

Before anyone jumps on a, "Hey now, Ubuntu!" bandwagon -- it should be mentioned that Ubuntu has been forthright, from day one, that the Ubuntu Phone and Tablet would be Unity on top of the CyanogenMod. With that in mind, are you still excited about possibility of owning either the Ubuntu Phone or Tablet (or both)?

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.

12 comments
ps.techrep
ps.techrep

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2028281/two-linux-tablet-projects-take-a-step-forward.html ". . . new orders are expected to ship in late February, according to several posts on the PengPod blog. The PengPod line of “true Linux” devices includes 7- and 10-inch tablet models as well as a mini PC; all three feature the Allwinner A10 system on a chip. Included in the 7-inch PengPod700 tablet, priced at $120, is a capacitive touch screen, 1GB RAM, 8GB flash, speakers, and a front-facing camera. The 10-inch PengPod1000 comes with a higher-resolution display, with pricing of $185, while the $85 PengStick is a 3.5-inch mini PC with 1GB of RAM and 4GB flash storage that's similar to the MK802.

ps.techrep
ps.techrep

Tizen 2.0 Alternative smartphone operating systems have created a buzz at MWC 2013. In the past two days, phones running Firefox OS and Jolla were announced. Samsung- and Intel-backed Tizen operating system is the latest operating system announcement at MWC 2013. It was announced on Wednesday. Tizen 2.0 seems to be inspired from Google\'s Android and HP\'s webOS. It is based on the open source Linux operating system. Many reviewers have compared it to Android 2.2 (Froyo) and said that the OS needs polishing, just like the old version of Android. Samsung demonstrated - See more at: http://www.financialexpress.com/news/asus-padfone-infinity-phablet-and-a-tablet-in-one-package-launched-as-nonandroid-phones-take-centrestage/1080713#sthash.vKqJ4gmV.dpuf

tiggsy
tiggsy

I think the ubuntu tablet will be mainly for people like me who want to use linux-specific software to do quick fixes on the run. Not sure how well it will go over with consumers, though I regularly convert friends from the windoze darkside to ubuntu. It's such a relief once they stop getting viruses.

jackcholt
jackcholt

@Slayer_: What do you mean you can't drop to a terminal? I drop to a terminal frequently on my CyanogenMod Android phone and tablet. What is to stop us from doing the same on Ubuntu Touch?

ahivatal
ahivatal

Jack, i read your articles, but please quit using "game changer" i believe it deducts from what you are saying, think of us who are not sport fans, or just don't like "paradigm shifts" etc. Thanks.

eryk81
eryk81

CyanogenMod runs on the HP TouchPad. I wonder if anyone has or is working on a port. I would love to see this get its start on the TouchPad.

Slayer_
Slayer_

You can't drop to terminal to fix something when your on a phone or tablet. First, Ubuntu would have to move to the stable version of Debian, and then they would have to actually test their work before sending it to the public.

alzie
alzie

As an enthusiastic Ubu user, I d much like to see it, buuuut theyre quite a bit late to the game. And, Androids doing very well. Like that too. Hope fully, theyll do better than Windoze phone 8.

dab
dab

"Who Cares" should be added to the poll. Ubuntu had their chance.... perhaps the crippled Unity interface will play out better on a tablet/phone platform???

mark
mark

Somebody will produce both Ubuntu Phone and Ubuntu Tablet devices, though they'll probably be hardware that the company is already making with a different software install. Whether anybody will buy them remains to be seen. Since this will be running on top of Android it doesn't appear to offer the potential of running well on minimal hardware that Firefox Phone is promising, so it may not have the developing market angle that Firefox plans to aim for.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Isn't it something like Alt + F1? how do you manage that?

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