Canonical (the company behind the Ubuntu brand) unveiled its smartphone operating system ambitions last month, and today was the turn of the tablet-focused variation of the OS to get the spotlight.
Ubuntu for tablets is now a thing too, and it closely resembles its smartphone counterpart, while coming with some neat tablet-only tricks.
The interface is based on swiping from all the sides of the screen, just like for phones. Swiping from the left unveils your favorite apps or, if you swipe all the way from there, a list of all apps – both currently running and installed. Swiping from the top presents you with the OS settings and notifications, and swiping from the bottom exposes the in-app menu for whatever you’re currently running. Finally, swiping from the right brings something new: the so called side stage. This is basically a new way to multitask. The side stage contains apps in phone format, so it takes less than a third of the screen. On the rest of the screen you can have a tablet app at the same time. And if one app supports both tablet and phone mode (as it should), then you can easily switch between those two states. The phone mode will always show up in side stage, though, and won’t ever take up your entire screen. The video below demonstrates all of this.
A sharing mechanism is built into the OS, a la Android, and you can share stuff from every app. Intelligently, this is done via the side stage, so the content you were sharing still takes center stage.
Multiple users are supported, and the accounts are secure. A Guest Mode is also in, allowing you to easily lend out your tablet to a friend without worrying about his or her usage.
There’s voice search support, and as may be obvious from how swipey the whole UI is – no need for buttons at all. Not physical, not software-rendered. Well, except for power button, volume control, and that sort of thing of course.
Like with smartphones, Ubuntu has two sets of minimum specs for tablets. One is a lower-end offering, which should have at least a dual-core Cortex A15 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 8 GB of storage and screen size of 7 to 10 inches. On the other hand, the more high-end hardware should come with at least a quad-core Cortex A15 processor (or, interestingly, Intel x86), 4 GB of RAM, and 8 GB of storage. This is more suitable for 10 to 12-inch tablets, Canonical thinks. The higher-end option offers ‘full desktop convergence’, which means that, if you add a mouse and a keyboard to your tablet, it will transform into a full-fledged PC running the ‘full’ PC version of Ubuntu.
This is once again similar to what Ubuntu for phones can do, and Canonical is understandably touting it as a great feature for enterprise customers.
A Developer Preview build of Ubuntu for tablets will be available on Thursday, and it will be flashable on the Asus Nexus 7 and Samsung Nexus 10 tablets. As with its phone OS announcement, Canonical has stayed mum on possible new hardware running the tablet-focused version of its OS. The company is likely still searching for partners in this respect. And, again as with the phone OS, expect the preview that comes out in a couple of days to be extremely incomplete. In the spirit of open source, Canonical wants the community to step in and code some apps after this preview is in the wild.
If we are going to see new tablets running Ubuntu, those will probably not arrive before October.
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