Ubuntu for Tablets coming to Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 this week
Joining Ubuntu for phones is Ubuntu for tablets, coming to the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10
Canonical's plan has always been to get its Ubuntu Linux operating system on as many devices as possible. It all started with the desktop version (Ubuntu 12.10), but over the past year we've seen Ubuntu TV, Ubuntu for Android and Ubuntu for Phones. Now it's time for the tablet, with Ubuntu for Tablets.
The new OS is designed entirely for a touchscreen environment, as a direct replacement for existing tablet operating systems, such as Android, iOS or Windows RT. It's similar in operation to Ubuntu for Phones, although this tablet version has been designed with larger, higher-resolution screens in mind. It also introduces some new features.
First, is the secure multi-user environment, letting you create multiple users on your tablet and even having a guest user, so that other people can borrow it and surf the internet. Multiple users are now available in Android 4.2, but it's good to see it here, as it turns what's essential a single-user device into one that the entire family can use.
From this point, the interface largely resembles that of Ubuntu for Phones, with gestures from the side of the screen controlling the OS. Swipe from the left and you get the Launcher with your favourite apps; swipe from the bottom to get application-specific controls; and swipe from the top to access settings, such as which network you're connected to, without having to leave the current app.
Swiping in from the side brings up the side stage, which lets you run tablet apps next to your tablet apps in a similar way to the Windows 8 side-by-side mode. You can also slide supported tablet apps into the side stage, so you can run two on screen at the same time.
As with Ubuntu for Phones, Ubuntu for Tablets also has a series of home screens. These are focussed around different aspects of the tablet and show your most popular data. For example, the Apps screen shows you running and most-commonly used applications, while the Contacts screen will show you the people that you talk to the most. Of course, there's full search built into the tablet, so you can find the app or files you want quickly.
Ubuntu for Tablets supports both native and web (HTML) apps. Web apps were introduced in Ubuntu 12.10 and let websites integrate into your phone. For example, Facebook can have its own icon and display updates and new messages as though it were a native app.
There will also be full support for native apps, which will be more feature-rich and should run more smoothly. Technically speaking, any existing Ubuntu app should run, although it will need to have the new front-end in order to appear as an option for installation on the phone.
The Touch Developer Preview of Ubuntu for Tablets will be released for the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 on 21st February. You can check out a preview of the OS in the video below.