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Ubuntu operating system coming to mobile phones

Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, announced today that it is bringing its open-source, Linux-based operating system to the mobile world.

At a press event at its London headquarters, Ubuntu founder and Canonical vice president of products Mark Shuttleworth showed off the mobile OS, which will be available for both smartphones and entry-level handsets.

It will first ship in an ‘Ubuntu for Android’ version that the company describes as a "full PC desktop for multi-core Android phones" and will eventually be available as a purely Ubuntu experience through retailers and network operators. The Ubuntu smartphone OS will not use Java, instead relying on native code and existing Linux and Android drivers. It will also offer support for both ARM and x86 architectures.

Unlike other operating systems, Ubuntu’s smartphone platform will grant full desktop access once docked. Pointing to the Asus Padphone as a precedent, Shuttleworth said the ultimate vision is an Ubuntu-based device that can easily be turned into a desktop and, eventually, a gaming console.

“We’re shaping the future of personal computing. Ubuntu is proven on the desktop, and uniquely positioned to be at the heart of the next wave of consumer electronics, combining a beautiful hand-held touch interface with a full PC experience when docked,” said Shuttleworth, who highlighted Ubuntu’s ‘convergence mission’ as the quality that sets it apart from established players like Apple and Microsoft.

Shuttleworth admitted that the company has not yet secured a launch commitment from any operators, but insists an Ubuntu-based smartphone will be on track to ship in late 2013 or early 2014. A tablet version of the operating system is due to arrive soon afterwards. Meanwhile, Ubuntu TV, the firm's platform for smart TVs, was launched earlier this year.

Canonical will make SDKs of the Ubuntu smartphone operating system available to developers this week, and a version of the software will be released next month for Nexus phone owners to download.

An early look at the OS, running on a Galaxy Nexus handset, revealed a clean, simple interface that eschews the traditional home and lock screens in favour of direct access to apps and content via a series of swiping gestures.