Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth announced on Wednesday that his company’s open source mobile platform is now available for smartphones. Ubuntu for phones offers a “gesture-driven” interface that features personalized graphics, integrated search capabilities, and the ability to operate native Ubuntu mobile apps and HTML5 programs.
In his virtual keynote speech (shown below), Shuttleworth explains that his company is attempting to unify the mobile experience across various devices. Shuttleworth then notes that Ubuntu is becoming increasingly popular with more than 7.5 million downloads to date.
The Ubuntu phone OS will feature elements of the desktop versions interface with a “welcome screen” in place of a “lock screen.” According to Shuttleworth, the OS was built by artists who specialize in data visualization, and it displays information about the user’s interactions with the Ubuntu phone.
Also according to Shuttleworth, the welcome screen varies from traditional lock screens in that users can immediately begin interacting with their phone via the use of gestures. For example, swiping from the left edge shows the most often used apps on the left side of the screen. Swiping in from the right edge, in the meantime, shows the most recently used application. The same gestures can also be used when the phone is in use, allowing for quick launch and re-launch multitasking. Another gesture includes swiping along the right edge to navigate back through recently used apps in reverse chronological order.
As Shuttleworth explains, the new home screen shows recently used apps, contacts, and services. The home screen also offers a search bar that performs a search on the phone’s storage system and for available apps and information via the internet.
Icons during the Ubuntu demonstration already show support for Facebook, Gmail, YouTube, Evernote, Spotify, Twitter, Pinterest, and Skype. At this time, supported apps are in HTML5 formatting but could extend to native coding to help speed up each platform, much like Facebook did with its rebooted offerings for Apple iOS and Google Android apps.
Ubuntu is offering two smartphone builds, the first an entry level build and the second a high-end build for “superphones.”
To operate the entry-level build, smartphones must feature a 1GHz Cortex A9 processor, 512MB to 1GB of RAM, 4GB to 8GB eMMC flash storage with SD expansion, and multitouch capability. Higher end superphones require requires a quad-core A9 or Intel Atom processor, a minimum of 1GB of RAM, at least 32GB eMMC storage with SD expansion, multitouch capability, and the ability to dock the device to a monitor and keyboard for desktop convergence.
Here is the full Ubuntu for phones virtual debut: