Canonical has unveiled Ubuntu for tablets, which it said will help unify the Ubuntu experience across phones, tablets, PCs, and TVs.
A Touch Developer Preview will be released on 21 February via developer.ubuntu.com, which will work on the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets. That will come the same day as the developer preview for smartphones, which will be available for the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4.
The Preview SDK for phones will now be updated to support tablet apps, as well. Canonical said it will be "very easy" for Android developers to develop for Ubuntu.
During a Tuesday conference call, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth said Ubuntu for phones and tablets use the same binaries.
"The tablet interface is presented by exactly the same OS and code that provides the phone, PC and TV interfaces, enabling true device convergence," the company said.
"Ubuntu allows a phone app on the screen at the same time as a tablet app," Canonical said. "The Ubuntu side stage was invented both to enable efficient multitasking and to improve the usability of phone apps on tablets."
Ubuntu for tablets will support screen sizes between 6in and 20in, as well as resolutions from 100ppi to 450ppi.
"The tablet fits perfectly between phone and PC in the Ubuntu family," said Oren Horev, lead designer for the Ubuntu tablet experience. "Not only do we integrate phone apps in a distinctive way, we shift from tablet to PC very smoothly in convergence devices."
Shuttleworth suggested that the first Ubuntu tablets will likely appeal most to enterprise users. An option to add multiple users to a single tablet will make it easy to pass one device from employee to employee. The OS will also support full-disc encryption and full encryption for all data for each user.
"From a compliance and regulatory point of view and data protection point of view, this is a really unique capability," Shuttleworth said.
When docked, an Ubuntu tablet will provide the full PC experience, Canonical said. "An Ubuntu tablet is a secure thin client that can be managed with the same tools as any Ubuntu server or desktop," said Stephane Verdy, head of enterprise desktop and thin client products at Canonical. "We are delighted to support partners on touch and mobile thin clients for the enterprise market."
Canonical also championed the user interface, which uses screen edges to navigate between apps and settings, creating "less clutter." That home screen is customisable, allowing carriers and tablet owners to create their own experience.
Canonical first unveiled Ubuntu for smartphones in early January. Shuttleworth said today that there has been "fantastic reception," including interest from a "very large supplier of silicon to the mobile industry."
That supplier has committed to Ubuntu, which has "catalyzed" the manufacturing sector and given them the confidence to committ to the OS, he said. Shuttleworth declined to provide names, saying Canonical will have more details after next week's Mobile World Congress.
Canonical plans to release Ubuntu 13.10, which includes the smartphone experience, in October. But networks will then need to test that software, so actual phones probably won't come out until the first quarter of 2014. Canonical is in talks with "top-tier carriers" in North America, Europe, and China, the company said.