Ubuntu for phones: A Q&A explainer

Ubuntu isn't quite making its own smartphone, but it's not just a hack project, either. Let us explain.


Ubuntu for phones looks slick, but doesn't really exist quite yet.

Image via Ubuntu for phones

You might have seen some buzz about the Ubuntu for smartphones announcement on Wednesday. Ubuntu, the maker of a rather popular, Linux-based server and desktop operating system is looking to load itself onto smartphones. Which phones, made by whom? Is Ubuntu looking to come pre-installed, or arrive as an after-market installation? What can Ubuntu offer that Apple and Android haven’t covered?

[Install Adobe Flash Player in Ubuntu 12.10 and Install Oracle Java 7 in Ubuntu 12.10]

Good questions! Let’s answer some of them.

Question: Ubuntu wants to make a phone operating system, huh?

Answer: Actually, Ubuntu wants to bring a full desktop operating system, and a phone-sized version, to your phone, or a future phone. The way Ubuntu sees it, you can have a phone that makes calls, browses the web, scans Twitter and all that through the phone-focused version of Ubuntu. Then, when you’re ready to work, you could hook up your phone to a monitor, keyboard, and other accessories and start cranking on the Ubuntu desktop that more than 20 million people use.

Q: You can run a full desktop OS off a phone?

A: Off of certain phones, yes. Ubuntu is looking at phones with quad-core processors, which offer the same kind of multi-tasking and processing oomph that desktops utilize. Phones have been demanding so much of their hardware lately that their hardware has quietly crept up to the realm of desktop-readiness.

Q: So, hook up my iPhone to my monitor and, boom, there’s a computer!

A: Not your iPhone, no. Ubuntu for phones requires a linux core (or “kernel”), and hardware that ably supports that core. Ideally, phone makers will start making phones that have Ubuntu installed from the get-go.

Q: Crud. So it’s going to be a while until I actually use this thing.

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