Dual-core 1GHz CPU, 1GB RAM, Video Acceleration, HDMI output and 3G connectivity: these are the specs of an average smartphone these days. Not long ago, these were the features of a fully functional desktop or laptop computer. I still have a three-year-old HP laptop that is lesser privileged than my Samsung Galaxy S.
With phones carrying more horsepower than computers, why not utilize the full potential. Canonical is doing exactly that by announcing a product called Ubuntu for Android that will bring the open-source Linux distribution to its younger cousin developed for smartphones.
You would need a docking station with capability and hardware support for HDMI and USB, and you are ready to leverage the full power of your phone and the open-source Ubuntu. You carry just your most-personal device, the phone, and get all the different personalities – phone, tablet and desktop – into the phone.
Canonical founder Mark Shuttlewoth said in a blog post, “It’s a lightweight way to be – everything seamlessly available with the right interface for the right form factor, with no hassles syncing. It just works, the way Ubuntu should. Lots of work behind the scenes to make both systems share what they need to share, but the desktop is a no-compromise desktop.”
Ubuntu and Android share the same kernel. When docked, the Ubuntu OS boots and runs concurrently with Android. This allows both mobile and desktop functionality to co-exist in different runtimes, providing the best of both worlds. Shared services and applications are delivered using a Convergence API module which ensures the tight integration between desktop and mobile environments. Work is balanced across the cores of the phone. When the handset is not docked, both CPU cores transfer their full power to Android.
Ubuntu for Android is capable of using the Android phone’s connectivity, including 3G network access, and also 4G, in countries where it is available.
Of course there are some limitations. Ubuntu for Android requires minimal custom hardware enablement, allowing fast and cost-efficient core integration. It requires a core based on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) or any subsequent version. This can be a compelling reason to upgrade to multi-core handsets with more RAM, more storage, faster GPUs and CPUs. But that is justified with the power the phone can provide. The hardware requirements are straightforward and, with a broad range of ARM and x86 hardware supported, it can realistically be added to phones already in development.
This move will also create new markets and new opportunities. Phone manufactures will have increased competition and telecom operators will work on providing the best connectivities. For countries like India where the penetration of the phone has been much more than that of the PC, this can boost usage of computers and improve computer literacy. There would be cost savings on smaller companies and startups.
There can be further applications of Ubuntu for Android. You carry your presentation in your phone, plug it in to the dock that connects to the projector and voila! And TVs that transform into home PCs when you dock your Android phone. It opens up a whole new world of opportunities.
The smartphone is getting smarter.
Watch this intro video