Friday, February 24, 2012

Ubuntu for Android: more details and prototype, Engadget goes hands on at Cononical

When Canonical, the people behind the popular Ubuntu project, announced that they were bringing Ubuntu to Android, it kicked up a lot of questions from all over. The basic idea is that your phone becomes a mobile PC, witching from Android into full desktop Ubuntu mode when you dock it to a bigger display, keyboard and mouse. One of the main questions is exactly how well does it preform. When it is coming, and how is it coming? And will the average user be able to install it for themselves? Canonical kindly let Engadget in at their London office to show off their working model. And, of course, bombard the engineer with questions. 

First, some of the good news. Ubuntu for Android is everything it's been claimed to be. It's a functional desktop OS that sits alongside Android, shares the same kernel and has full read / write access to everything on your phone (the connectivity hardware itself plus contacts, emails, videos, apps and pretty much everything else.). It's also ready for ARM-compatible Ubuntu apps, potentially expanding the range of things your phone can do.

Now for the bad news. The prototype we saw was running on a TI OMAP 4430-powered Motorola Atrix 2 (Click for Engadget Review) that had primarily been chosen for its ready-made docking accessory. The software hadn't been customized for that handset and neither Motorola nor TI have so far been involved in the project.

Despite this, some tasks ran surprisingly well, like watching a video or adjusting a photo. However, surfing on the Chromium desktop browser suffered too much hanging and it was also clear that multi-tasking would be a serious burden. According to Canonical, better performance will come when manufacturers tailor the software to their newest handsets and offer it pre-installed.

The company is doing everything it can to make that happen -- meeting with big players at MWC next week and trying to persuade them that it's not too late to offer Ubuntu on models scheduled for launch this year.

Below is the hands on video from Engadget.

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