MWC 2012: Your phone will become your computer. Ubuntu for Android video demo

The slogan “Your phone is your computer” has been around for years. But it always meant very little and was just a marketing tool for smartphone vendors to promote their wares.

Yes, with the introduction of Apple iPhone, your phone did become a true personal mobile computing device. But a computer? To rival your desktop PC or at least laptop/netbook? Not even close.


We are getting there slowly but surely. And in a few years your phone may indeed become an adequate replacement for your PC or Mac.

The first commercial device trying to transform your phone into a PC – was Motorola Atrix with a Lapdock. Unfortunately, the technology was not there yet. The whole set-up was too slow and expensive.

But now we hear that Google itself has picked up the mantle, and should integrate Atrix like docking functionality into Android Jelly Bean. With another 18 months of Moore’s law, and docking/Chrome based desktop mode as part of Android – this might just work this time.

For example, take a look at the Asus Padfone. Right now – all those docking accessories turn a smartphone into just another tablet. With Jelly Bean upgrade – your Padfone can easily become a full-fledged Chrome notebook.

There’s also another way to go about turning your phone in to a computer. This special docking stuff is expensive. And it usually just gives you a bigger display, battery and keyboard. There already is enough computing power in your device for most of the stuff people do on their PCs.

What if there was a desktop OS version was pre-installed on your smartphone? And became active as soon as you connect your handset to a bigger display via HDMI port? Some special dock would be nice and helpful – but all you’ll really need is HDMI cable.

This is the road Canonical is taking with Ubuntu for Android. The OS just sits there, on a phone, and takes over as soon as you connect it  to  bigger display. Here’s a quick video of how it works:

This Ubuntu on Android demo was made on Atrix 2 and it performs quite well. With all the traditional desktop apps there, in full or thin client modes. Canonical guys say that they are already working with one of smartphone OEMs, to get the first Android phone with Ubuntu pre-installed shipping by the end of the year. And they plan to release the version for developers too. So if you don’t mind a little hacking, you might have Ubuntu for Android running on your smartphone in a few months.

For now, the user experience on PC/smartphone converged set-ups pretty much sucks. But things are getting better. They will improve some by the end of 2012, though will still be mostly for early adopters.

Give it a few years, however, and I can easily see the time when I will be carrying only my smartphone for my computing needs, unless I have to do some heavy video editing or some other highly CPU intensive things.

Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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