Ubuntu for tablets officially unveiled

Ubuntu has unveiled Ubuntu for tablets, which is a tablet optimized version of Ubuntu which is visually similar to Ubuntu for Phones which was unveiled last month. Canonical has been planning to make Ubuntu an all-in-one operating system, to cover all devices from phones to tablets to desktops and TVs.

If you want a closer look at Ubuntu for tablets you can do so at the upcoming MWC, where devices running Ubuntu for tablet will be displayed. Additionally Ubuntu for tablet preview images will be available for download on February 21st, just like the Touch Preview of Ubuntu for Phones. These image files will be compatible with the Google Nexus 7 and the Google Nexus 10.

Ubuntu for tablets are planned for devices between 6 and 20 inches with minimum specs which include 8GB of storage, an A15 processor and 2GB of RAM. Ubuntu for tablets also goes after a specific aspect which tablet manufacturers have been ignoring until recently, which is multi-user support. Even though Apple feels that each person in a household needs their own iPad, Google recently introduced multi-user support on Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, giving users a chance to share a single tablet. Ubuntu seems to following in these footsteps.

The login screen for Ubuntu tablets looks like a combination of the Ubuntu desktop login and the Ubuntu Phone welcome screen. The various user accounts can be found on the left along with a guest account. On the right side you have an interactive wheel, which displays all the notifications. It isn't clear what the right side will display when no user is logged into the device.

The OS itself is very gesture centric. The Unity app bar is still on the left edge, and swiping out from that edge will bring up the App Screen, where you can see running apps, and other apps on your device.

One of the big features of Ubuntu for tablets is its multi-window mode called side-stage which is similar to what Microsoft introduced in Windows 8. Ubuntu's side stage takes the right edge of the screen and allows users to run a phone-optimized app alongside a tablet-optimized app, and if the apps are universal, the apps can be switched between the larger and smaller viewing area.

Ubuntu looks to be using a concept similar to Android when it comes to spanning across multiple platforms. Since the UI from phone to tablet to desktops will use the same design, it will be optimized to work with each screen. Throughout the platform you'll see the same design language and features, including the notification tray that from Ubuntu phone, which can now be pulled down in the side stage for easy access while still doing something else. The side stage also holds the new dedicated share menu for Ubuntu, which promises support for major networks. Facebook, Twitter, Ubuntu One, Gmail, and Pinterest were shown off in the demo, but it is unclear if the menu will expand as you install apps, like the Android share menu, or if it is set like iOS. Ubuntu Dash is also part of the demonstration and allows you to easily search for any content both on and off the device.

Just like with Ubuntu for Phones, Voice Controls will plat a major role in Ubuntu for Tablets. The idea is to make powerful apps which will enable using your tablet as a creation device and not just a consumption device through voice commands.

Its clear that Ubuntu’s all-in-one strategy will rely on the convergence of devices, and the video demo shows that Canonical understands this. Connecting your phone to a dock offers you the full desktop experience, and the tablet is no different. It also looks like Ubuntu will allow phones to be docked with tablets, similar to the Asus PadFone. This means you can dock your phone to your tablet, and whatever you had open on your phone will be displayed in the side stage. Dock your tablet to a keyboard, and you'll get the Ubuntu desktop with all of your apps transferred over, and dock to a TV and you'll get the TV interface for a more "lean back" experience for watching video or playing games.

Microsoft may have taken the first step in the direction of convergence but Canonical seems to be taking the right step. Google’s desktop and laptop experience is still tied to Chrome OS, while Apple doesn’t seem to have any immediate intention of combining their desktop and mobile platforms. So Ubuntu is stepping forward and offering us an experience we are bound to enjoy. We cant wait to see how the experience applies in practice.


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