Mark Shuttleworth's ambitious IndieGoGo project may have failed, but that's not stopping Canonical from bringing its touch-friendly flavour of Linux Ubuntu to smartphones in the near future.
The company recently announced partnerships with the Chinese company Meizu and the Spanish company BQ to bring hardware devices running Ubuntu for phones. We got a quick demo of Ubuntu running on a Nexus 4 at this year's Mobile World Congress.
Ubuntu isn't like Android or iOS. It's completely gesture-based and focused on a clean and simple user interface. In some ways it's more similar to BlackBerry 10, using edge-swiping gestures to access apps and information. Apps are always a big deal and reps say that they've made it easy for developers to port over Android titles, but we've heard that same line from BlackBerry and they're still playing catchup even a year after release.
Our demo was with a Nexus 4, which is one of a few devices that Ubuntu can run on. The home screen is unusually barren, changing displayed information with taps on the circle in the centre of the screen.
Swiping in from the left brings up an app dock, while swiping in from the right brings up running apps. Swiping down from the top lets you access a notification hub of sorts, while swiping up from the bottom opens app settings. It worked fairly smoothly, but it clearly isn't a finished product. Company reps highlighted the Scopes, which aggregates apps and content to make it easier for users to find what they're looking for and things that they might not have known they needed.
Canonical is partnering with Meizu and BQ to bring full-fledged Ubuntu hardware devices at some point this year. We're looking forward to trying out the final product once they're available.