Ubuntu, a popular distribution of Linux, announced today that they are releasing shortly a version of their OS that is optimized for tablets. While this may not seem like big news to the casual consumer, I can’t help but think that it is. Why? Well, for one, it means the same software that runs on your desktop can run on your tablet and vice versa.
Sure, an app store is planned for their tablet OS, but users are in no way limited to a specific library of applications. This is somewhat true for Android tablets as well, but many device manufacturers actually lock down the devices so that you can only install apps from their approved libraries. If you are a casual consumer, these restrictions actually help more than you might suspect as they mean that there is a certain level of quality that can be expected throughout the experience. If you are looking to create content or simply enjoy getting under the hood at all, these restrictions can be frustrating at times and crippling at worst.
So how would Ubuntu’s open garden approach be a good thing for general consumers and content creators alike? Well, Ubuntu has been making their desktop OS for a while now, they’ve had plenty of time to build up a significant repository of applications that are not only capable of running on their OS, but designed specifically with their OS in mind. This isn’t a compromise effort like Windows 8, where there are a limited number of tablet apps in their new store that use the new UI and the concession that is the classic UI allowing you to run your older software. Ubuntu apps will all work under the same interface, the same list that’s been growing for years already.
Admittedly, it has been several years since I last used Ubuntu. What I do remember of it is that it was the most user-friendly version of Linux I had ever used*. I liked the software and what I have heard about their updates since then have been encouraging. I’m intrigued by their tablet OS and tempted to install it on my Nexus but also a bit hesitant for a few reasons. 1. I am not sure if I need to root my tablet or not. This can be easy enough, but it also requires a PC to do which is not something I have easy access to. 2. I would want to back up the current configuration of my tablet before attempting to install a new OS. This also requires a PC, either to backup everything directly to or to use the best backup apps which require root access. 3. Making the switch most likely means getting assistance from a friend. On its own, that’s not bad, but if I try it out and there is any absolute deal breaker or worse, I’m stuck until my friend can help switch it back. It’s funny, if I had a PC, I’d be more than willing to root my tablet, install a brand new OS onto it and try it out but I wouldn’t be evaluating it in the same way. It would be a toy to tinker around with. But since I lack a PC, I may not be able to try it at all. Needless to say, if I do try it somehow, I will be letting you know all about the experience.
*For the curious, the full list of Linux distributions that I have tried over the years: Red Hat, Fedora, Fedora Core, Mandrake, Mandriva, Gentoo, Puppy, JoliCloud, Ubuntu, SuSe and similar enough to mention but not actually Linux: Solaris and FreeBSD.