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Ubuntu for Android brings your desktop to your smartphone

David Ludlow
23 Feb 2012
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Plug your phone into a dock to get your normal work computer

Following the announcement of Ubuntu TV, Canonical is continuing to push Ubuntu to different platforms.

This time around, it's Ubuntu for Android, an add-on that lets you run your Linux desktop from your smartphone, effectively allowing you to take your work computer with you everywhere. Ubuntu for Android is designed to run concurrently with the standard Android operating system, giving you normal access to your phone when you're using your handset; plug your phone into a dock connected to a monitor, however, and you get your full Ubuntu Desktop.

Ubuntu for Android docking

Plug your phone into a dock and you get the Ubuntu OS rather than Android

As both Android and Ubuntu run a Linux kernel, it's possible for both systems to share data, including contacts, documents and photos, and network connections concurrently. The only thing that really changes is how you access this information: Android on the move and Unbuntu from a desk.

What's clever is that the data you're working on can be synchronised between the two systems. So, if you're working on an email in Ubuntu, you can pick up your phone and have Android open the message in its email client for you to finish.

Ubuntu for Android will run on any Android handset, provided it has at least a dual-core processor, 512MB of RAM, and HDMI and USB support. In other words, pretty much every high-end handset released recently and slated for release next year.

Ubuntu for Android desktop

Ubuntu for Android requires at least a dual-core processor, but quad-core will be faster

"The desktop is the killer-app for quad-core phones in 2012," said Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical. "Ubuntu for Android transforms your high-end phone into your productive desktop, whenever you need it."

Canonical is currently in talks with handset manufacturers about including the software, although Ubuntu for Android will also be released to the open source community, so custom installs should be available for most popular smartphones.

Currently, there's no planned release date, but the official Ubuntu for Android website calls the software a must-have "for late-2012 high-end Android phones".

There are several reasons why late 2012 makes sense. For starters, there'll be quad-core phones out there, giving more power for Ubuntu. Secondly, 4G networks will become more prevalent, making working in the Cloud easier and faster.

Ubuntu for Android isn't the first time that the desktop and mobile have been merged together. The Motorola Atrix tried a similar trick in early 2011, with a laptop dock that let you turn your phone into a traditional laptop. Motorola's problem was that it relied on Android for the desktop operating system as well, and it didn't work particularly well. Canonical's approach of using a desktop operating system for the desktop and a mobile operating system for the phone makes a lot more sense, but it'll be interesting to see how fast it runs.

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