Open Source

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 and 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 and 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)?


Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website

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