Canonical, the company behind the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution for various devices, today announced an upcoming OS. The new OS, targeted towards phones and other small-screen devices, should be shipping in 2014, but was shown off running in beta form on Galaxy Nexus devices in London today.
The interface, as shown off today, is heavily based on gestures. Similar in some ways to what was shipped with the Nokia N9, which was powered by Meego, many have already deemed the OS unintuitive. It’s impossible to really gauge just how difficult the OS will be to use daily until it is widely available, and for the time being the swipe-based interface looks both useful and beautiful.
The technical aspects of the OS seem promising. While it is based on Linux, as is Android, it is lacking the Java Virtual Machine that Android is basically built upon. This means faster performance in almost every case, if the programmers are able to optimize the code well, but at the expense of app compatibility.
Expect hardware built on this OS sometime in 2014, if ever. While Canonical did reveal the OS to the world today, there was no carrier or manufacturer support mentioned. Ironically, the test devices used by Canonical to display the new OS were Galaxy Nexuses, the last-generation flagship Android device that debuted alongside Android 4.0 in late 2011. The Verge has a nice hands-on video of the OS running on the device, and while it does look pretty there are obvious performance issues. That is, of course, to be expected: this code and OS is still in a very early stage. As mentioned above, it doesn’t look as if it will be ready for primetime until 2014, so there’s still more than a year to go.
However, for the hackers and enthusiasts out there, Canonical has promised to release flashable images of the OS for the Galaxy Nexus (GSM only, I’m assuming; sorry Verizon users, you’ll have to wait for a hacker to port it) sometime in the next month or so. Users interested are advised that the OS is still very much a work-in-progress, though it will certainly be something fun to play with.