By 14.04 LTS Ubuntu will power tablets, phones, TVs and smart screens from the car to the office kitchen, and it will connect those devices cleanly and seamlessly to the desktop, the server and the cloud.

Unity, the desktop interface in today’s Ubuntu 11.10, was designed with this specific vision in mind. While the interface for each form factor is shaped appropriately, Unity’s core elements are arranged in exactly the way we need to create coherence across all of those devices. This was the origin of the name Unity – a single core interface framework, that scales across all screens, and supports all toolkits.

Canonical and the Ubuntu community have established Ubuntu’s place in desktop, server and cloud deployments. We have also invested in the design and engineering of Unity, motivated by the belief that desktop interfaces would merge with mobile, touch interfaces into a seamless personal computing platform in the future. Today we are inviting the whole Ubuntu community – both commercial and personal – to shape that possibility and design that future; a world where Ubuntu runs on mobile phones, tablets, televisions and traditional PC’s, creating a world where content is instantly available on all devices, in a form that is delightful to use.

A constantly changing world

The way we access the Internet, connect to our friends, listen to music, watch films and go about our daily lives is rapidly evolving. We now use a diverse set of devices with an array of operating systems, which have a range of connectivity. Few people are exclusively loyal to a single technology provider.

Consider this quote from Paul Maritz of VMWare:

“Three years ago over 95 percent of the devices connected to the Internet were personal computers. Three years from now that number will probably be less than 20 percent. More than 80 percent of the devices connected to the Internet will not be Windows-based personal computers.” Paul Maritz, 29 August 2011 VM World Keynote.

Make no mistake – just as the world is changing for manufacturers so is it changing for Linux distributions. Today, 70% of people in Egypt access the Internet solely via the phone. Even in the US that figure is a startling 25%.

Ubuntu is well positioned

Ubuntu will thrive in this new reality.

Our established collaboration with the silicon vendors that are driving this converging market are critical. Intel, ARM and AMD will make the chip-sets that will power this future and Ubuntu works with all of them on all technologies.

Our engagement with the PC market will help bring the results of this work to a huge audience – partnerships with the likes of Dell, HP, Asus, Lenovo, Acer, IBM, Vodafone and more are a gateway to users who want continuous, connected, cross-device computing.

We are determined to bring more free software to more people around the world, and building that future hand in hand with device manufacturers is the best way to do it. There is no winner in place yet. This opportunity remains wide open, but only to products that deliver excellent experiences for users, across a full range of device categories.

The investment we have already made in the interface accommodates the touch scenarios required in some form factors and, with a little love and attention, will work equally well in mouse, keyboard or stylus-driven environments. Ubuntu will not be restricted to small screen or large screen environments but encompasses both and all the form factors in between. We will see our work on the Ubuntu platform land in a variety of formats current and yet to be invented. It is without doubt the most exciting phase in the history of Ubuntu.

Ubuntu One and the software centre

Ubuntu’s personal cloud and app centre services are appropriate for all these environments. They deliver the required storage, syncing and sharing capabilities that are not just a convenience but a requirement as we move to a universe where content is increasingly shared but the devices that access them become more diverse. Ubuntu One’s support for other OSes show the ability of Ubuntu to play nice with others, recognising that the divergence is strength.  It allows users to choose the devices they prefer but still delivering the benefits of Ubuntu-centred strategy.

The next steps

We are describing this at UDS to energize the entire Ubuntu ecosystem around this challenge. Canonical will provide the heavy lifting needed to put us in the ball park, but there are opportunities for participation, contribution and engagement by all elements of the broader Ubuntu community, both corporate and individual.

Our developers, our partners’ developers and the broader open source development community share this opportunity. There is a great deal to discuss, and an array of strands we need to pull together at UDS. But the direction is clear and the prize is great – to bring more free software to more people in more delightful ways than ever before.

82 Responses to “Ubuntu on phones, tablets, TV’s and smart screens everywhere”

  1. sibin Says:

    Mobile computing now increasing in every countries.Android platform became famous due to increasing number of Mobile phones.So i think your movement is good.But need to fight with Windows Mobile,Android,webOS and iOS.

    Best wishes for your future plans

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  3. Mitchell Says:

    Way to go Mark! Keep up the awesome work. Ubuntu’s vision of moving forward is inspiring, and I’m with you all the way.Currently I run 2 netbooks with Ubuntu, as well as a server. From the smaller end of the spectrum, using Ubuntu is also great.

    To those feeling Ubuntu is ‘forcing’ you to do anything, get over it. Unity is a work in progress, and will be awesome in a couple of years. With a couple of tweaks to compiz I find it the best workplace interface possible right now. But don’t like Unity? Then contribute to the code base! Don’t have time for that? Then install a different desktop. It’s so easy, I don’t understand what all the whining is about.

    The Ubuntu project is a winner, and I’m behind it all the way. Keep up the great work Mark!

  4. Aryan Says:

    By the time you get Ubuntu into a usable shape for tablets and phones, Windows 8 has had two years to get polished and with iOS and Android as incumbents, Ubuntu would occupy the same niche that it currently occupies on the desktop.

    Polishing Unity for tablets/smartphones might be doable, but how do you get the thousands of third-party apps in the software store to be magically touch friendly?

    Canonical would be much better off buying webOS from HP. Seriously, it’s already Linux, using a lot of the same components that Ubuntu uses like gstreamer, pulseaudio, gdbm, webkit, parted, etc. It would be so much more feasable to buy webOS and over time merge/align it with the Ubuntu Desktop, and you would have a solid contender with a respectable fan-base and media coverage right away in the tablet/smartphone area.

    If HP’s sale price for webOS is right, Canonical should really think about it. And if/when you release it as free software, the goodwill that that will generate would be tremendous and would ensure an instant following.

    Of course, buying webOS is no guarantee for commercial success (far from it), but it’s the best thing that currently is designed for tablets/smartphones and that can be remotely called ‘Linux’.

  5. Nadesj Says:

    I don’t like Unity on desktops, but I know where you
    want to go and I am looking forward to phones, TVs and
    tablets with Unity. Also I don’t have to use Unity on
    my desktop for the moment, there is choice.

    Hope to see Ubuntu in a store near me soon :-).

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  8. Tom Wood Says:

    Ubuntu 10.10 was ace.
    I just made the mistake of upgrading to 11.10 and have spent over a day’s effort fighting Unity into something approaching usable. One of the main things here is disabling the global menu (they’re moronic, the menu should belong to the window). I’d also really like to disable the title bar of maximised windows from merging with the panel, as that’s also brain-dead (why should a maximised window behave in a completely different way to an unmaximised one… and again, the title bar belongs to the window so it should be part of it).

    YES, maybe on a mobile or a tablet or a netbook you want to do things differently to save screen space. BUT I’M NOT USING ANY OF THOSE PLATFORMS. I’m using a desktop with two big monitors. I can work much more productively if I can tweak the interface to suit the platform rather than forcing everyone into a one-size-fits-all approach. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “jack of all trades, master of none”. “One size fits all” is always an uncomfortable compromise.

    Unity generally works well, but please, allow more customisation so we can tweak the UI to fit our individual use cases.

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  11. Joe Wakeling Says:

    @garry — I hope my earlier remarks about other Ubuntu flavours were not interpreted as being anti-Unity; I think it’s a very nice and exciting development.

    BUT one of the strengths of GNU/Linux is the degree to which knowledgeable users can customize their own OS. Ubuntu+Unity on smartphone, tablet and other device platforms will be great — it would be even better if Ubuntu can be the gateway for all the other UI flavours out there to come to devices.

  12. Eric Says:

    I love using Ubuntu and do so for hours a day on a desktop and/or netbook while using the Gnome interface, and I’ve frequently recommended Ubuntu as a worthy operating system. But I still don’t see it becoming a true alternative for most people until it comes already installed on devices when purchased. But them I’m afraid it will become what Android largely has become — an operating system that’s designed by Google and modified by other companies to tie users into their universe.

  13. Nelson Huygen Says:

    What works for a tablet does not necessarily work for a computer. Unity looks and acts terrible on a device with an upright screen, a keyboard, and a mouse.

    I’m afraid that you’ve blown it, Mark. Existing Ubuntu users are leaving in droves. Ubuntu has jumped the shark.

  14. srinivas v Says:


    So, “World domination” eh, Let us take up the parts of this domination, one by one.

    Phones: Can u take the openmoko project under canonical and release an Ubuntu phone, instead of depending and begging OEM’s to do it for u and in the process compromising the “freedom” of users.

    Desktops: Naa. Until u want to brand Debian GNU/Linux as ubuntu and u dont come out frank with users, it will never happen. GNU/Linux is not only “linux for human beings” but from “human beings” There is nothing wrong in giving all the “freedom” developers their due by just identifying them and putting references up on your website. GNU/Linux was and will be used sans the contributions from ubuntu.

    Tablets: Now, this is a herculean task. I appreciate ur gut feeling, even to talk about this segment. This segment is full of people who just want their device to “work”, thats it. None of the bugs and all the experimental software being developed in canonical’s closed quarters is going to help. And since u are not bothered about the “power user” segment, and u dont want come out of this dream that everybody “loves” unity and u think that it can be forced on to every “GNU/Linux user” ………….

    I request you not to throw out a half baked OS and an interface which is going to spoil the mileage which GNU/Linux and the Linux kernel have gained over the years, atleast with users who respect and love “freedom” more than “anything”

    All the best in all your endeavors.

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  18. Librethinking Says:

    Hey Mark, I think is a great idea. You should register the “U-Phone” 😛

  19. Daniel Says:

    I’m assuming feature requests can be placed on launchpad. Yeah?

  20. garry Says:

    @Joe Wakeling – No I wasn’t thinking of you :-) I agree that one of the Linux platform’s great strengths is the variety of environments one can set up, that’s why I find the anti-Unity brigade so baffling – why not just use something else?

    I also find what you’re saying about the other desktop projects potentially getting on board with this interesting. There’s a real opportunity here to get ahead of the development curve. The biggest growth areas for computer interaction aren’t desktops or laptops anymore and, if people are up for the challenge, there’s some quite exciting work ahead.

    @srinivas I’m increasingly seeing the line of argument you’re going down at the end of your post being deployed – that Unity is somehow spoiling all the market share that desktop Linux had built up (there was quite a large post of this ilk on ZDNet recently). I don’t get it. Is there data I don’t know about showing a spike in desktop Linux adoption pre-Unity that’s backslid post-Unity?

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  23. Jose Says:


    “That’s because the keyboard is the fastest, most-reliable way to get data into a computer. Nothing beats it, not voice, not gestures.”

    That is just temporary, voice is super fast for 95% of the human population that does not touch type, and more natural too.

    As an engineer I just need an stylus to draw because you can not do sketches, diagrams… with a keyboard.

    A picture from a 8Mpixels phone contains dozens of millions more information that a keypress, speech thousands, it is only about time that hardware and software evolves to be able to analyze and extract a big part of it in a reliable way.

    Apple(and Android) are moving where the puck is going to be, not were it is.

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  25. srinivas Says:


    cc @Mark

    If GNU/Linux had 1% of desktop share, If you remove one user from that list, how much would it go down? That too if the user already had a feel of GNOME 2.* on GNU/Linux and was using it on his laptop and desktop and u suddenly thrust upon him an interface developed( being developed ) for a tablet. Dont u think the desktop/laptop user is left high and dry? If u expect that everybody would own a tablet, then make a seperate OS and sell it to the OEMs who inturn will throw it out to the users. Not caring about the existing users and not bothered about their liking or disliking is a fallacy of canonical for which they will pay heavily.

    Just prove ubuntu is atleast as good as Android on the tablet, I will be the first to buy provided the notion of “free as in freedom” is intact and ubuntu still means “ubuntu”( I am what I am because of who we all are ) philosophy, Pushing out experimental software on desktop users which is in turn optimized for tablets making all the existing users guinea pigs.

  26. clockworkpc Says:

    Fantastic! Canonical is moving Ubuntu in EXACTLY the right direction. I run my entire business on GNU/Linux and FOSS, which would have been impossible without Ubuntu and Canonical’s professional support. Personally, I could do just fine on any other major distro, but Ubuntu reliability and hardware detection and, equally importantly, its advances in the UI are key to my personal and professional computer use. Well done, Canonical!

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  28. garry Says:

    @srinivas If you subtract one user from one per cent of world desktop share I suspect it would still be one per cent, using any sane method of rounding what would still be quite a large number (though a very small rate). My point was that, since the rate was so low, you can’t say that Unity is somehow going to “spoil the mileage which GNU/Linux and the Linux kernel have gained over the years” in terms of the desktop market. GNOME2’s shell had its chance to increase that share and, if that’s what you’re interested in as Mark/Ubuntu is/are, then it stands to reason that you need to try something different. As Albert Einstein is supposed to have said (it’s an attributed quote and I’m paraphrasing): doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity.

  29. Felix Haller Says:

    Hi Mark,

    i think this will be my Tech-Highlight in 2014 and I’m looking forward to my first Phone with Ubuntu. I hope the Power-Bugs will be resolved till then.

    Besides I agree to “Librethinking” – U-Phone would be nice 😉

    Greets from Germany

  30. Giovanni Says:

    People talk about the problems and usability with the new Unity interface, but every new concept have your mistake until get stable, I not see the vision of “ubuntu everywhere”, until now, this is visionary and in future is an good competitive advantage.

    Keep the good work and hold out.

  31. bjje Says:

    I dearly love Ubuntu and I’m willing to get used to unity because I want all of my devices to be linked so the vision is fine but what’s holding us back is voice/character recognition. In order to do more than just consume content, you need to have input. To do work, you also need more than a connection to the cloud, you need to be offline too. The problem is that without some kind of solution to work with now, all we get is Gee-whiz-I-got-ubuntu-to-run-on-my-device videos. This drives everyone straight to android and if it becomes a real OS then why ever return? I hope that the hardware contacts are further along than we are being told because if not then there’ll be nothing to develop on or even experiment with.

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