The Key for Ubuntu for Tablets Will Be Apps
Slowly but surely, Ubuntu is heading in many new directions. Last year, Ubuntu TV ramped up, this year Ubuntu phones are upon us, and Canonical is also introducing features in Ubuntu designed for enterprises that may be tired of paying heavy licensing fees for proprietary software. This week, Canonical announced Ubuntu for Tablets (see the video here), which the company says will offer "unique multitasking productivity, effortless navigation and defense-ready security."
The real key for Ubuntu tablets to succeed, though, will be rapid app development.
Canonical has announced that Ubuntu for Tablets will ship with some native apps and some web apps. And, of course, there are applications in the Ubuntu Software Center that will be readily available, but this week Canonical is making a developer preview available, and that's certainly aimed at getting early development going. As Ars Technica notes, in a conference call with the press, Mark Shuttleworth provided further details:
"What we have that's unique is a set of transitions between these form factors, which in each case is very minimal. When you transition from the tablet to the desktop, things don't move around. Your indicators, things like network status and time, they don't jump around on screen, they stay in the same place. That's what's really different certainly between our approach to convergence and for example Windows 8, where when you're in the desktop mode, which looks like Windows 7, and suddenly you get the new tile-based interface, it's a stark transition that can be jarring for users."
The "gentle phase changes" that Shuttleworth refers to as Ubuntu users get used to a tablet interface may mean that it will be relatively easy to make existing applications for Ubuntu work fluidly on tablets. Meanwhile, Canonical is undoubtedly going to be lining up hardware partners. In addition to Ubuntu phones, we're going to see more new types of mobile Ubuntu devices in a matter of months.