Canonical and its Linux-based Ubuntu OS have recently received some attention via the announcement of the rather intriguing bq Aquaris M10 tablet. And it seems that the open source company isn’t immune to the call of MWC 2016. Just in time for the start of the mobile madness, Ubuntu reveals that two community efforts have brought the “converged” mobile experience to rather older smartphones, the Sony Xperia Z1 and OnePlus One. Unofficially, however, there might be even more in the works that could be revealed at MWC this week.
Officially speaking, there are only a few devices sold as Ubuntu phones and just one tablet. That includes bq’s Aquaris E4.5 and E5, the Meizu MX 4 and, more recently, the PRO 5, and the bq Aquaris M10 tablet. However, there are a few ports, both official and unofficial, of the OS to other devices, including some older Nexus ones, and now the Xperia Z1 and the OnePlus One.
Ubuntu on a mobile device is already interesting due to being different and novel from the see of Android and iOS devices in the market. While it does have common ground with Android in the driver stack, it is pretty much its own beast and is, in fact, divergent from a regular Linux-based desktop.
Where it really shines, however, is in its promised of a “converged Ubuntu experience”. In a nutshell, that practically means the Ubuntu running on that smarpthone would be the exact same Ubuntu running on a tablet and on a desktop. The interface adapts depending on the connected output and input devices. At least that’s the theory. That promise, as best seen in the M10 tablet, is still a work in progress, but the seeds have already been planted.
Things are a bit murker when it comes to smartphones, however, where that promise still has to take actual flesh. The Meizu PRO 5 Ubuntu Edition would have been the perfect candidate for that, except for the fact that it doesn’t have video out hardware like MHL. Ubuntu insists, however, that the same OS on the M10 runs inside, which means, again in theory, it is possible.
The port of Ubuntu to other existing smartphones is partly due to excitement and eagerness of the Ubuntu community to actually see that in action on more devices, something Canonical itself has been rather slow at. At MWC 2016, the company will be showcasing the few devices it does have in its portfolio, including these two new community-made ports. Whether it actually shows the promise of convergence is something we’ll let our testers judge for themselves.