One OS to rule them all


Built for ARM and x86 processors.

Ubuntu will be the next major player in mobile and desktop operating systems, if it delivers on its promise of releasing a fully integrated platform by April 2014.

Founder Mark Shuttleworth put the mobile version of the company's Linux distribution through its paces at the Pepcom event at CES 2013 tonight. Running on a Samsung Galaxy – for no particular reason except it's a convenient development platform, he said – Ubuntu did all the things you'd expect from Android or iOS.

His goal is to release a version of Ubuntu that works on literally any kind of platform: server, personal computer, tablet, mobile phone or television, on any kind of processor. One side benefit of adapting it to run on power and processing constrained mobile devices is that the big iron implementations become more efficient too. They're “totally cleaning” it, he said.

What Shuttleworth was really showing tonight was the smart phone interface they've developed. It looks as slick and user friendly as any Android implementation – in other words, the average user won't have a clue what operating system is installed. And doesn't need to care.

That's the key. Ubuntu, like other Linux variants, is open source and free to use. Making it the one OS that runs on any sort of device means it's an attractive platform for developers who want as broad a reach as possible and for manufacturers, who want to make devices in every category.

Ubuntu is the most popular version of Linux, according to Shuttleworth, who said that this year it will be installed on 10% of the computers shipped worldwide. That's a tall claim, but even so it might not be too far north of the truth by year's end. If Shuttleworth can stick to his deadline fifteen months from now, it'll just be the start.

About Steve Blum

Steve Blum is president of Tellus Venture Associates, a management, planning and business development consultancy for municipal and community broadband initiatives. He is a 30-year industry veteran and an expert in developing new broadband infrastructure and services, including wireless, fiber optic and satellite systems. His career includes playing key roles in the launch and growth of DirecTv in the U.S., as well as other satellite broadcasting platforms around the world. For the past ten years, he has helped build municipal wireless and fiber optic broadband systems. His client list includes many California cities, such as San Leandro, Palo Alto, Oakland, Los Angeles, Lompoc and Folsom. He’s a member of the executive team for the Central Coast Broadband Consortium and has worked with other regional consortia in California. Steve is the author of seven books on the Internet and satellite broadcasting and is a frequent contributor to professional journals and industry events. He holds an A.B. in History from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.A. in East Asia Studies from the University of Washington, and an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas. He is a triathlete and multiple Ironman finisher, and is currently ranked in the top 100 of the Challenge Triathlon world rankings, out of more than 30,000 athletes.