Ubuntu demonstrated its Unity operating system on a Galaxy Nexus at CES 2013, and says the open source operating system will be available on other smartphones this year. Sandwiched between the gleaming white structures that housed ZTE and Huawei, Ubuntu’s smaller booth at the Consumer Electronics Show could have been easy to overlook. But it remained crowded with a steady stream of fascinated visitors.
The Galaxy Nexus was the perfect demo phone for Unity because it has no buttons on its face, and Unity doesn’t need any. The operating system controls the phone entirely through screen swipes: the left side controls apps, the bottom has the phone’s primary functions, and the top controls the settings. None of these appear until a user swipes the appropriate part of the screen, and after they are used they disappear again. The right side of the screen can be swiped to enable multi-tasking — users can answer texts or emails without minimizing an open app.
Ubuntu is a Linux-based operating system, and Unity is the name of its mobile interface. The company says Ubuntu is exactly the same whether running on a computer, in the cloud, or on a mobile device — only the interface changes. Ubuntu is a South African company, and its name means “I am what I am because of who we are.”
Ubuntu says it already has a full software development kit available at developer.ubuntu.com and that several hundred apps for Unity have been created already. The company hopes the pace will accelerate once phones start shipping. It says it has agreements with manufacturers of Android phones, but cannot share their names yet.
Mozilla, creator of the Firefox web browser, is also working on a Linux-based operating system. Several mobile operators and device manufacturers have announced their support for Firefox OS.
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