Over the last few months, Ubuntu has branched out to smartphones and TVs, maintaining the underlying operating system while incorporating especially-designed user interfaces for each device. Today, Ubuntu has gone after a form factor that has received much press lately: tablets.
The new Ubuntu for tablets features a user interface that was designed from the ground up in order to work with large multi-touch devices. The home screen features information that is relevant to users, ranging from the most frequently launched apps, people recently messaged and recent music played. The home screen is customizable so that only information that is relevant to each user is displayed. The home screen is coupled with the “Savvy Search” feature, which allows users to perform searches, listing not only local results but also online content.
Once an app is launched, Ubuntu for Tablets takes advantage of the screen edges, or “magic edges”, for navigation or app controls: swiping from the top edge will bring up system services such as notifications, the left edge brings up a list of favorite apps, the bottom edge brings up controls specific to the app that’s currently open.
Multitasking is also big in Ubuntu for Tablets, allowing apps to run side by side. It is possible, for instance, to hold a Skype conversation while editing a spreadsheet. It is also possible to copy and paste, or even drag, content from one app to another, making otherwise stressful and time-consuming tasks on such a small screen much easier and effortless. This form of multitasking works with apps designed for both the tablet and the phone editions of Ubuntu.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Ubuntu for Tablets is how the PC version of Ubuntu can be easily accessed: simply plug a keyboard and a mouse onto the tablet and watch as your tablet turns into a regular, albeit really lightweight, PC. This is similar to the phone version of Ubuntu, which can be docked and turned into a regular PC.
In order for developers to become accustomed to the new operating system, Canonical is issuing a Developer Preview for Nexus devices on Thursday, hoping that enough apps are developed once the operating system is finally ready for public use, which is not expected to happen before next year.