One OS to rule them all

7 January 2013 by Steve Blum
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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.