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Ubuntu Cellphones Operating Systems

Ubuntu Phone OS Unveiled 248

Today Canonical announced Ubuntu for phones. The new operating system is designed to provide easier access to apps and content than is provided by current mobile OSes. They do this by relying on swipe gestures from the edges of the phone's screen. "Every edge of the phone is used, letting you move faster between apps, settings and content. A short swipe from the left edge of the screen is all it takes to reveal your favourite apps. Page either left or right from the home screen to see the content you use most. A full left-to-right swipe reveals a screen showing all your open apps, while a swipe from the right brings you instantly to the last app you were using. ... A swipe from the right edge takes you back to the last app you were using; another swipe takes you back to the app you used before that. It’s natural to keep many apps open at once, which is why Ubuntu was designed for multi-tasking. ... Swiping up from the bottom edge of the phone reveals app controls." The Ubuntu phone OS is built to work well on low-powered devices. Canonical will be at CES next week working on raising interest from manufacturers. As far as software goes, they have this to say: "Web apps are first class citizens on Ubuntu, with APIs that provide deep integration into the interface. HTML5 apps written for other platforms can be adapted to Ubuntu with ease, and we’re targeting standard cross-platform web app development frameworks like PhoneGap to make Ubuntu ‘just work’ for apps that use them." (In the attached video, the phone OS discussion starts at about 6:37.)

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Ubuntu Phone OS Unveiled

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  • by seebs ( 15766 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @02:33PM (#42452465) Homepage

    I hate the way iOS has gradually made it harder and harder for me to interact with the app I have open rather than the OS. Dragging from screen edge, tapping with the wrong number of fingers... All sorts of things get eaten by the OS, so I end up doing something other than interacting with the app.

    Now, in their own tragically quite imitable style, Canonical appear to have decided that the problem with the intrusion of the OS into the app's UI is that it does not go far enough.

  • by sticks_us ( 150624 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @02:57PM (#42452721) Homepage

    But I'm seeing two benefits:

    1) If Canonical can get traction with the OEMs, maybe there will be more diversity in the type of hardware available. Might open up the "mobile OS hacking" subculture even further, allowing people to come up with novel, mobile GNU/Linux distributions.

    2) Allowing devs to write/ship mobile applications in something other than ObjC (iOS) and Java (Android). I don't think it's possible or viable today, for example, to write a full Python mobile application and ship it. Sure, there are some pet projects out there that will, with some effort, let you kindasorta run things like Perl or Python on Android, but anything other than ObjC/Java are second-class citizens, currently.

    Perhaps having Ubuntu begin to carve out even a little space here might help open the market a bit to more interesting and useful approaches to mobile operating systems?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @03:12PM (#42452857)

    What does it bring new to developers that isn't there in Android?

    Real openness?

    What have the Romans ever done for us?

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @03:26PM (#42453043) Homepage

    This is probably THE most useful comment made.

    It's a fact that OS/UI developers seem to believe that the Operating System and User Interface are these most important things. They certainly don't see it the way users see it. (To be clear, most users don't identify which OS/UI is in use, they just want to run the programs they want to run.) And while we all like to have some eye candy and flexibility in the way we do things, we generally need increasingly large displays [read: pixel counts] in order to restore focus on the application and to minimize the impact on screen and usability which the OS/UI claims. This has instinctively been my biggest beef with Desktop UI developments with Linux lately. The GNOME 2 experience defaults to two tool bars, one top and one bottom. The first tweak I usually do is to add a drop-down window list to the upper-right corner and remove the lower tool bar. Yes, it's MacOS9 style, but it minimizes the space claimed by the OS/UI and let's me focus on what I'm doing.

    Now let's look at Android 2.x+. Android seeks to minimize the UI impact and it does a nice job of it. A minimal row of buttons give the user a single and simple home from which to go home, switch apps, go backward and open a context menu. Swiping from the top of the screen is a useful feature which enables the user to quickly access contols and status information. With Jellybean, we actually have two sides of the top to choose from on larger devices and it is always opposite of the button row at the bottom. Simple and effective. It is also visibly obvious.

    What Ubuntu-phone is proposing is unintuitive and seeks to infringe on how an app can live on a device. Do. Not. Want.

  • by H0p313ss ( 811249 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @03:35PM (#42453145)

    What does it bring new to developers that isn't there in Android?

    Real openness?

    What have the Romans ever done for us?

    Sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health?

  • by Shoten ( 260439 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @03:44PM (#42453257)

    It will be really open unlike Android. As you point out Google is trying to stamp out forking which is really hypocritcal given Android is basically a fork itself and it wasn't that long ago that the Linux community was complaining that Google take without giving back.

    If this is the crux of their value proposition, they are fucked. The fact of the matter is, at least 80% of mobile phone users don't even know what "openness" means, and if you can explain it to them, almost none of them will care. You can argue about open source vs. closed source, about how Android isn't really open, about flexibility, even about how open source gets patched faster on the whole.

    The vast majority of people will not care. Should they? Sure. But they don't. And they aren't going to either. How do I know this? Because this whole discussion is vaguely familiar...I remember it over a decade ago, when it was about Linux on desktops instead of Linux on smartphones. All that time has passed, and you still can't get people to buy Linux-based computers based on the openness argument.

  • Re:windows 8 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gordonjcp ( 186804 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @03:53PM (#42453335) Homepage

    Windows 8 won't have the same apps on your phone as on your desktop. It'll have whatever apps software companies decide to port across to Windows 8 for ARM. It's just like Windows CE in that respect, so you'll end up with cut-down "Express" versions of a few of Microsoft's own programs, a few custom-written things for parcel delivery van drivers, and 200 different Sudoku games with varying amounts of malware.

    At least with Linux you stand some chance of being able to port apps to a mobile platform, because the source is available.

  • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @03:58PM (#42453387) Homepage Journal

    To be clear, most users don't identify which OS/UI is in use, they just want to run the programs they want to run.

    Except for Gnome-Shell users, for which the OS actually applies itself in a natural, minimal, and very POWERFUL way. Alt+F2 brings a run dialog. Windows key (Meta) or a top-left tab brings up the Activities view which shows desktops, icons, running applications expanded out, a search menu, and the system status bar. From within the Activities view you can move windows between desktops, run new tasks, search for applications, and view and respond to waiting notifications. Also, you can log out. Outside of that, the UI is basically out of your way. I mean, there's a clock at the top of the screen, and you can bring down the system menu from the top right to log out.

    Too bad the alt+tab behavior is task-based instead of window-based. I hate composing an E-mail in thunderbird, hitting Alt+Tab, and it takes me to Chromium on another desktop instead of back to the Thunderbird main window I was just in before opening the New E-Mail window. I don't remember the last actual program I was using; I remember the last window. Fast swapping between two windows is useful. This task logic is not; it just deprecates alt-tab as a method of navigation.

  • by Flipao ( 903929 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @04:04PM (#42453441)

    What does it bring new to developers that isn't there in Android?

    Real openness?

    The AOSP is perfectly open, you're more than welcome to grab the source and do with it as you please, like Amazon did. The license doesn't require you to publish the full source code but it doesn't prevent you from doing so either.

    This allows Android distributions like Replicant [replicant.us] to exist. Currently 4 OSs dominate the smartphone market, Android, Blackberry OS, iOS and Windows Phone. You'd think people would show a little apreciation for the fact that the dominant OS is the only Open OS out of the bunch.

    Instead they come here and spew bile.

  • by TheSkepticalOptimist ( 898384 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @04:44PM (#42453835)

    Define "openness"?

    Try and contribute something to Ubuntu Phone OS, pretty sure your content is not going in there.

    Now take the Ubuntu Phone OS code, create your own version, then what. Use it on one device? Not like you are going to create a competing phone OS platform based on Ubuntu Phone OS.

    So what exactly is open about Ubuntu Phone OS vs Android vs iOS vs Windows vs Firefox OS, vs, whatever?

    People throw the Open card around as being better then closed proprietary source, but I call bullshit on that. There is no "real" open community development, its a gated community where you can only get in once you pass the gatehouse, and they just don't let any riff-raff through those gates.

    99.99999% of all Slashdot readers that claim open source is superior to closed source have not contributed one line of code to any open source project. What's the point then other then a smug superiority complex.

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama