Canonical, the lead commercial sponsor behind Ubuntu, Linux is launching a new effort that will bring mobile phones and desktops together in a very different type of experience. The new "Ubuntu for Android" effort isn't about running Ubuntu Linux on an Android phone, it's about enabling a new type of converged device.
"Ubuntu for Android is a converged single device that gives a full Android smartphone experience as well as an Ubuntu desktop experience, when docked with a keyboard and monitor," Jane Silber, CEO of Canonical, told InternetNews.com. "We're working with handset manufacturers and mobile network operators to bring this to market."
The ability to run Ubuntu on an Android phone is not a new idea and has been available via apps such as the Ubuntu Installer, which is not developed or marketed by Canonical. Silber stressed that Canonical's Ubuntu for Android is not simply an Ubuntu app that runs on Android.
"It's two operating systems with a shared kernel and one basically takes over for the other, depending on whether it's docked or not," Silber said. "It's a bit of a new category, being a converged device and experience."
Silber also stressed that Ubuntu for Android is not an Ubuntu phone. Rather when the device is being used as a phone it's Android and when it's docked then it's Ubuntu. Ubuntu for Android is also not initially an effort that will enable any user to re-image an existing Android device in order to make it an Ubuntu for Android device. According to Canonical, hardware partners will work closely with Canonical to enable the device.
The Ubuntu for Android effort could potentially be a financial windfall for Canonical. Silber explained that part of Canonical's core business is about working with hardware OEMs.
"The issue of post-sale revenue is of great interest to manufacturers and network operators and it's one of the places where we have interesting offerings with Ubuntu One," Silber said. "We have potential to share back post-sale revenues back with OEMs but the details of how that would work out are all specific to individual deals."
Ubuntu One is Canonical's storage and synchronization service that runs across multiple device types.
Ubuntu for Android is initially being targeted at smartphones and not tablets, though the technology could be extended in the future.
"One of our major themes in recent years has been attention to design and user experience," Silber said.
Ubuntu for Android also has the potential to extend beyond the phone and the desktop to TV's. Canonical unveiled their Ubuntu TV concept at the CES 2012 show earlier this year.
"The very same phone that you can plug into a keyboard to get a desktop environment, you can plug into a TV and it will display the Ubuntu TV interface," Silber said. "So there is all sorts of interesting potential for blurring the lines between form factors, and the user experience really becomes the driving force of how the software behaves."