Canonical has taken the veil off of its “Ubuntu for Tablets” OS, and I’d be lying if I said I’m not impressed. While the Ubuntu for Smartphones launch last month was intriguing, nothing inspired me to believe that its future would be that bright. I could be wrong, of course, but I got a totally different feeling from this tablet OS launch. It’s great-looking, polished, feature-rich, intuitive and looks to be great for multi-tasking. Canonical might just have a winner here.
I’m admittedly not a fan of Ubuntu’s Unity environment on the desktop, but for smartphones and tablets, it looks perfect. After watching a video with Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth showing a tablet off, that sentiment is only strengthened. Sliding in from the left reveals the app launcher; the right, a “Side Stage” which runs phone-based apps; the top, settings and services and bottom, app-specific controls.
You can see an example of the bottom swipe below:
Ubuntu for Tablets is built like others with social features in mind, so all official apps are going to have the ability to share content with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Gmail and of course, Ubuntu One.
None of that is what’s too impressive about the OS, though. What is, is how fluid everything appears to work. Swiping from the right, for example, could open a video chat, while your movie continues to run just fine underneath. Done with the call? Simply swipe it out of the way and proceed to pick milk up on the way home.
“Ubuntu HUD” is a (kind of) neat feature that allows you to use your voice to control certain apps, such as launching the dark / light tool in GIMP or perhaps even telling Transmission to pause downloads. Going further, Canonical makes mention of CAD apps, video editing tools and so forth, so it’s clear that it has plans to make its tablet OS capable for more things than simple tablet apps.
One of the things that stands out most to me with Ubuntu for Tablets is its “neatness”, and that’s exactly what Canonical was going for. It simply looks great; it’s an interface where I don’t even think I’d feel the need to replace the launcher for quite some time. Unless of course tweaking options are limited much like they were with Unity in its infancy.
Currently, Canonical doesn’t have signed partners (that we’re aware of), but on account of the OS being designed around either the ARM Cortex A15 or an Intel x86 processor (not x64, apparently), we’d be surprised if a couple of companies didn’t jump in soon and develop a tablet around it.