Could Ubuntu provide the next big OS for smartphones and tablets? Across myriad gadgets and systems at CES 2013, it’s been the user interface that’s taken center stage, so announcement of an Ubuntu OS for smartphones came as no surprise.
Canonical, the Linux-based platform’s promoter and enabler, demoed Ubuntu to us on a Samsung Galaxy smartphone amid some sizable crowds. There’s clearly interest in Ubuntu, and it’s easy to see why. An open-source operating system that it can run both web apps and native apps concurrently and seamlessly, it’s an unusual user interface in that it uses no buttons.
There’s almost nothing to actually tap, with the entire OS built instead around gestures along the edges of the touchscreen. The home screen on our demo unit has icons for camera, phone, a gallery, Facebook, a browser and Gmail across the top, though it’s a UI that has a 360-degree feel; swipe left for People, a list of contacts and phone/messaging activity, and further left for Music, where albums are represented as icons.
Go right and you’ll find the Apps page, leading to a Video area beyond. Touch the left-hand edge of the screen and up pops a stack of most used apps, such as Gmail, Twitter, Facebook and the Phone functions. Best of all, however, is the easy access to utility apps; by touching the top of the screen a carousel is awakened that shows Networks, Sound, Messages and Date & Time.
Each can be dragged down to appear full-screen. We were also shown a Gallery app that puts all photos as thumbnails in a timeline. It’s an interface that does away with controls, though it’s easy enough to edit, email and share photos – though only if you look at the original picture.
Expect more news at the Mobile World Congress in February ahead of a possible launch of hardware in late 2013.