Software

Samsung DeX will finally give life to the Linux smartphone

Samsung is working on bringing Linux to its DeX platform. Jack Wallen explains why this is not only important to Linux, but to Samsung as well.

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Image: Samsung

Remember when Canonical was doing everything they could to bring convergence between the Linux desktop and the Ubuntu Phone? They worked tirelessly to make it happen, only to fall short of that goal. This effort was preceded by Ubuntu Edge—a smartphone that, by itself, would bridge the mobile device and the desktop. That failed as well, but the intent was the same.

For those that aren't familiar, the idea behind convergence is simple: Offer a single device that could serve as both a smartphone handset, and when connected to a monitor work as a standard desktop computer. The idea is quite brilliant and makes perfect sense. Especially when you remember how many people use a smartphone as their only means of either connecting to the world or productivity. With that number growing every year, the idea of convergence becomes even more important. Give them one device that could function in two very important ways.

Unfortunately, the company that dreamed up the idea simply couldn't make it happen.

Enter Samsung—a company with more than enough smarts and resources to make convergence a reality. In fact, they already have. With Samsung DeX users can connect a Galaxy S8/S8+ or a Note8 to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse for a full-blown desktop experience powered by your phone. However, in its current incarnation, DeX is limited to the capability of Android. And although converging that mobile environment to a desktop format makes it significantly more productive, it still lacks a few significant tools.

Enter Linux—an open source operating system whose kernel powers the Android platform. Samsung has announced it has a beta version of an app (Linux On Galaxy) that will allow users to run a full-blown Linux desktop on the Galaxy Note8, Galaxy S8/S8+ smartphones. This will happen via DeX.

The importance of Linux

This is important. Why? Canonical's failure was indirectly a big blow to Linux on the desktop. When it was thought a Linux company was going to beat everyone to convergence, it was a big deal. When it failed, it was no surprise to many. However, the Linux faithful knew what their platform of choice was capable of. Clearly, Samsung knew as well. And with Linux On Galaxy, Samsung is very close to taking DeX to the next level, and bringing Linux with it.

However, this isn't just about leveraging Linux to empower convergence. With Linux On Galaxy, Linux users will finally have the Linux smartphone they've been waiting for. With the bitter taste of the Ubuntu Phone finally washed from the palette, a second go at having the open source platform on a smartphone is very welcome.

If anyone can do it, it's Samsung.

With a bit of a caveat, this won't be a pure Linux experience—it's an operating system running on top of an Android app. On top of which, Samsung's idea is really geared toward programmers needing to code for multiple environments. And you will probably need the Samsung DeX dock to make it work well (as working with desktop apps on such a small display would be next to impossible). This clearly shows Samsung's dedication to Linux. The juggernaut fully understands the importance of the open source platform on so many levels. Without Linux, enterprise businesses wouldn't be nearly as agile as they are. And having Linux On Galaxy goes a long way to prove how important Linux is to both Samsung and businesses in general.

Your distribution at the ready

That doesn't mean Linux On Galaxy will only work with some niche distribution designed for developers. Au contraire. According to Samsung, this app will be able to run your prefered distribution. That's big. Considering how much power the Galaxy Note and 8/8+ offers, nearly any distribution would run like a champ. And having the ability to easily display that distribution on a standard monitor means your work can easily move from location to location, without relying on a cloud service for hosting that data. It's all there, ready for work, using your preferred distribution and a host of built-in programming tools.

But don't worry, Linux On Galaxy won't be relegated to programmers only. If your jam is productivity, you'll be able to make use of all of the available Linux tools, GIMP, LibreOffice, Audacity, Scribus, anything you require to get the job done. And if one Linux distribution isn't enough, Linux On Galaxy will be able to run multiple operating systems. So carry Ubuntu, Fedora, openSUSE, Arch, Mint—whatever you need—in your pocket.

I, for one, am thrilled at the idea of finally being able to take Linux on the go.

If you're interested in keeping up to date with Linux On Galaxy, you can register with Samsung to receive updates for this game-changing tool.

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About Jack Wallen

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.

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