Ubuntu, the popular Linux-based OS for those that eschew Windows or Mac OS, has launched version 13.10 today, or as it’s known in the Linux community: Saucy Salamander. This is significant because, unlike the Ubuntu variant for Android OS, version 13.10 is designed to expressly support a line of Ubuntu-based smartphones and, eventually, tablets.
The Saucy Salamander release is limited in what it can do, but offers a Webkit open source browser, core apps such as a phone telephone integration, messaging, photo viewer, and setting/preference overrides. It is potentially forkable, and may be made more consumer-friendly over time with an array of skins and more core apps, but for now, that’s it.
As for the smartphone—the Ubuntu Edge –it has yet to materialize along with the OS and will probably be delayed for the foreseeable future.
The Ubuntu Edge was leaked back in July as the UK company behind it, Canonical, launched a crowdfunding campaign via Indiegogo. The goal of $32 million fell far short (but not for lack of interest), and the Edge remains a more of a concept with possible prototype in the works. Purportedly, the Edge will be designed to run both Ubuntu and Android, and is geared toward the mobile computing user who demands more from a smartphone… in fact, once hooked up to an HD display, the phone would be able to run pretty much like an Ubuntu-based desktop or laptop computer.
Once Canonical can pull together the funding and create more than a prototype phone for the market (most are hoping it’ll be ready in 2014, but beyond hope, there’s not a firm date for anything), there’s a strong possibility that the device would sport a 4.7-inch/720p display, 4 GB RAM to rock the SoC processor, offer 128 GB(!) of storage, a silicone anode battery, and be able to run on LTE and GSM networks (including Verizon and Sprint). Not only that, but rather than Gorilla Glass to protect the display, the eventual Edge smartphone would use a scratch-proof sapphire crystal material. But all that is pipe-dream stuff for now.
Saucy Salamander (also known as Ubuntu Touch in the Linux dev community) is ready to go in any case, and will run on Android-based smartphones and tablets, as well as Linux-reay PCs and servers. You can find a list of supported devices over at the Ubuntu Wiki. The OS must be flashed onto any supported device, and as it’s a first release of a touch-based OS for Ubuntu there’s plenty of bugs, pitfalls and omissions (such as that ostensible ability to port to an HDTV or HD display).
So, if you’re one of those Android smartphone hackers who just loves playing around with the device’s code and such, you’ll find plenty to keep you interested with Ubuntu… the open-sourced community would love for you to take it for a ride, and make it better in every possible way.
Christian Hokenson is a writer based in Burbank, CA. He's interested in technology, movies, and home entertainment. If you're nice to him, he might buy you ice cream.