Ubuntu going mobile

Canonical has announced it’s launching a mobile OS in 2014, quite a long time in the mobile space. It’s Interesting that they don’t have any hardware partners yet, but that’s probably part of the long lead time as well as giving developers time to write apps.

In Mark Shuttleworth’s introduction to the platform he mentions that the OS has been written to work with existing Android hardware and kernel so they’re obviously looking to tempt manufacturers away from Android.

Ubuntu’s direction of travel has been going this way since the Unity UI was introduced a couple of years ago and there were stronger hints of Canonical’s mobile interests at their developer summit a few months when they announced Ubuntu for Android.

One of the carry overs from the desktop are Web Apps, which allow apps written in HTML to access a JavaScript API that interfaces with the OS to behave like a native app, integrating with notifications, messaging menus and the HUD. Along with Firefox OS it reinforces the web as broadest platform available to developers and it’s aspirations as a first class citizen on vendor platforms.

A potential issue I can see with the swipe and gesture UI used on Ubuntu for mobile is it’s lack of discoverability. To my mind it’s like Mystery Meat Navigation without at least the possibility of seeing the mystery menus first. I’m sure they’ll come up with a clever way of teaching users the gestures, but it seems like it could be a stumbling block for a large number of people.

Ubuntu has done well in Enterprise with their server offering, overtaking Red Hat in powering the top million sites earlier last year and they certainly seem to be doing ‘one OS everywhere’ better than Microsoft has managed so far with Windows 8. The move into the mobile space is Canonical’s first step into the post-PC era that is clearly defining the next computing epoch which is one that sorely needs greater plurality.