Ubuntu would also have some interesting advantages

As far as I’m concerned, if custom beats by dre “good kid m.A.A.d city” isn’t the best rap album to come out in 2012, then I’m not sure what is. Be a Good Kid and go listen to it. Seriously. Amongst all the huge Ultra HD TVs and the endless glitzy cell phone accessories, CES 2013 also saw a number of quieter, but at times far more custom beats by dre remarkable announcements. Some of them were on the technical side, yet had implications that will soon extend across the entire electronics landscape.One of the most remarkable and potentially far-reaching developments on show at CES this year didn’t exactly lack publicity, but may have been overshadowed owing to its lack of immediate product announcements. That was Canonical’s showing of its Ubuntu GNU/Linux adapted for smartphones.This is such an obvious idea, you have to wonder why it took so long. With smartphone hardware becoming increasingly powerful, it’s inevitable that more-powerful operating systems will start to encroach. And given that Android is essentially just an evolution of Linux, the arrival of a full-fledged Linux ‘distro’ (distribution) was an inevitability.The implications may not be entirely obvious. But Canonical is suggesting their scope by referring to the its new platform as a “superphone:” a pocket device that’s every bit as powerful and flexible as a desktop PC.

And which could effectively become a desktop PC, when docked to a monitor and keyboard. Unlike Windows Phone 8, Ubuntu could bring its sizable established library of desktop apps into to the smartphone world, making it the most powerful device you could put in your pocket. (Make up your own jokes.)If nothing else, Ubuntu for phones could significantly raise the bar as far as smartphone capability. It suggests that the basic ideas of ‘personal computing’ (such as openness and user control) may be mutating beyond their previous laptop and desktop forms, and infecting platforms that were expected to remain limited, closed and proprietary.At the same time, oddly enough, there’s been talk about Samsung also moving custom beats into Linux phones, by a quite different route. The company has apparently stated that it will be launching a line of devices this year, based on Tizen Linux, an open source development of the Linux Foundation and the LiMo foundation.Some sources have gone so far as to speculate that recent moves into Linux may have something to do with phone manufacturers hedging their bets on software licensing, or with concerns over Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility. Whatever the specific reasoning, a Samsung-built Tizen handset would be yet another interesting alternative in the smartphone mix.Could we be reaching the end of broad market dominance by one or two platforms, and the start of a new era of diversity? The barriers are lower than ever before, given that consumers have become adept at adapting to new operating systems. And perhaps more finicky than ever about choosing them.

Tizen is said to emphasize HTML5 in its software development architecture. It replaces the previous Linux-based MeeGo initiative, which had apparently made little headway.A lot will depend on the system’s new small-screen user interface. Canonical seems to have some good ideas on that score, such as using all four edges of the screen to enable various thumb-swipe commands. (Ironically, this may actually be more popular than the latest non-standard Ubuntu desktop interface, which has drawn the ire of many former supporters.)Canonical sees no particular technical challenge to getting Ubuntu working on phone hardware. In fact, it notes that the OS won’t have the overhead of a Java virtual machine, as in Android.Ubuntu would also have some interesting advantages, especially to enterprises and power users, who might benefit from having a single powerful, secure OS available on just about every scale of hardware. In fact, Ubuntu 14.04 (scheduled for spring 2014), is intended to be a single image that can run on phones, tablets and desktops.Canonical says its goal is to have actual Ubuntu phones on the market by the end of 2013. That will depend on finding hardware partners to work with, but it seems inevitable beats studio that at least one or two smaller companies will take the bait. Should an industry major come on board, we could see a really interesting shakeup in the marketplace.

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