“In every dual-core phone, there’s a PC trying to get out.” – Ubuntu for Android
I’ve long been an advocate for the idea that phones will eventually replace our desktop computers. The Motorola Atrix 4G was a promising step in the right direction, unleashing a phone/laptop hybrid that was understandably underpowered by today’s standards but still quite intriguing in its functionality.
Now, it looks like the Linux desktop powerhouse that is Ubuntu is making its way into the smartphone world. With this software, multi-core smartphones are capable of switching between mobile devices and full-fledged Ubuntu desktop computers.
Because Ubuntu and Android share the same kernel, Android 2.3 Gingerbread (or later) runs while the phone is undocked and Ubuntu loads up and runs concurrently while the device is connected to a keyboard, mouse, and monitor. It allows the user to enjoy the best of both worlds… at least in theory.
Why I’m Cautiously Optimistic
Before you jump to turn your phone into an Android/Ubuntu hybrid, there are some things to consider. Modern phones might have two to four cores and plenty of power, but they’re still not designed to push desktop software. Simple tasks such as browsing the Web and checking email might be easy for any phone to handle, but doing anything beyond simple tasks will undoubtedly be met with disappointment.
Google has been working hard to resolve an ongoing problem with Android sluggishness. Jitters, dropped frames, and other performance issues have been plaguing the mobile OS for some time. Project Butter did wonders to improve this, but even in Android 4.2 there are still improvements being made to address this issue. Imagine what might happen when you run Ubuntu concurrently in this situation. Even the peppiest smartphones would be expected to choke.
Ubuntu for Android is currently being pushed to hardware makers as a potential included software bundle. There is currently very little in terms of support for folks that want to modify their existing Android devices to take advantage of this project. If you’re a handset maker or network provider, Ubuntu is eager to hear from you.
Even though this project isn’t ready for prime time just yet, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that Linux generally provides a great indicator for where the commercial operating system world is heading. I could see the iPhone of the future pulling double duty as a desktop Mac. Windows is already becoming a unified operating system as it is.
There’s one thing for sure: Ubuntu for Android could be a great indication of things to come.