Imagine carrying a full desktop computer in your pocket. We're not talking about that crippled Webtop crap from Motorola, either. We're talking about a real desktop OS built in to your smartphone. Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, wants to make that happen. Soon.

Ubuntu for Android is something that we've only dreamed about up to this point - one device to rule them all, if you will. In your pocket, it's an Android-powered smartphone. Not just any smartphone, either - it's your smartphone. Pull it out and drop it in a docking station, though, and it becomes a full workstation powered by Ubuntu, complete with monitor and keyboard. Sounds incredible, right?

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Canonical seems to have covered all the bases here, too; since the Android kernel is based on the Linux kernel, it's fully compatible with Ubuntu. This means that, thanks to some software tweaks built into Ubuntu for Android, you still have access to all of your phone's goodies, including SMS messages and phone calls.

What kind of horsepower would it take to run something like this, though? Honestly, not that much. In fact, most multi-core phones with at least 512MB of RAM, HDMI, and USB should be able to handle what Canonical is proposing.

At this point, Canonical is still calling out to manufacturers and carriers to hop on board so they can start integrating Ubuntu for Android into handsets, so it's hard to say when we'll actually see this in the consumer market. Canonical is, however, planning to demo Ubuntu for Android at next week's Mobile World Congress convention in Barcelona, so hopefully that will spark more interest.

For more information on Ubuntu for Android, go here. If this is something that you would like to see implemented in your favorite manufacturer's future offerings, make sure to let them know!

Update: Video walkthrough by celebrateubuntu:


Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, musician, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6-string, spinning on the streets, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • http://kikorb.blogspot.com kikorb

    I would like to see that happening but not with Ubuntu but a brand new Google Linux Distribution.

    Ubuntu is so old and carries a lot to implement this and I would prefer a new fresh start with a Gmail app, a Reader app and things like that over Linux.

    But that´s a dream I believe.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Ubuntu is one of the leading and most user-friendly distros out there. Just because it's been in development for a while doesn't mean it's old, cranky, and stagnated. You could even think of it as mature.

      Though, I'm not opposed to the idea of a brand new distro at all. I just don't see it as necessary. I don't want another ChromeOS. I want a powerful distro with a proven track record.

      • fonix232

        Well, that could be done. OFC, as you said, not ChromeOS, but instead really a desktop OS, on Linux base, with the Android kernel, maybe with HDMI out routed on to the PC? So the user can select mode (PC or display mode, latter being the usual "show movie on big screen", and PC being, well, PC), it would be native, and could implement most of the existing ARM Ubuntu things.

        Drawback is, it needs more space. Not just for the OS, but for it's apps, data, configs, everything. My 32GB Transformer would be reduced to 16GB the best. It can be solved with shared storage, yes, but the files could get mixed easily.

        Another thing is, how to control it? I mean, if we want mouse/keyboard, we need an interface for that. That would mean, manufacturers would have to include more and more standardized (Google Standard) interfaces, most probably USB OTG/Gadget, plus every device with such should come with a docking interface, what includes a charger, and atleast two full-size USB for the controllers.

        On the other hand, more and more extensions could come. The tablets and keyboard docks could be redefined, and such things as the Asus Padfone would surely break the market, as there would be need for such a device, what replaces the mobile phone, on-the-go office (tablet-laptop) and home computer.

        But I'm too far into the future with these speculations :D Let's see how this Ubuntu for Android turns out in first place!

        • http://www.ossramblings.com CyberMage

          HC already supports a mouse and keyboard. My A500 even has a full size USB host port and I can plug them both into a USB hub and then into the tablet, or use a wireless one including over BT. Putting that kind of thing into a dock (like pictured above) would be trivial.

        • Jon

          Ubuntu for Android and Androidd on teh device wil share data and content such as music, documents, and videos.

          And Ubuntu takes up around 2.2 to 2.4 GB of space. Plenty of space left even if the device has only 16 GB of space total.

          Frankly, space won't be much of a problem for high end phones particuarlly if they have expandable storage.

        • fonix232


          We are talking mostly about phones here, not tablets. My only mention of tablets were where I mentioned Padfone, what isn't really a tablet, but more like, a tabdock. Different things ;D
          My other mention is my TF, as it has the things we need - USB OTG, and HDMI out. But phones lack these, mostly USB OTG, as manufacturers like to charge people for such. The first devices showing off Android-Ubuntu combos will totally cost 2x the usual price, just for the logo saying you can use it as a PC!

          Ubuntu takes up around 3gigs of space with everything installed, yes. Maybe a bit less with the ARM support libs and stuff. But then add applications, plus that it would totally bork up Android permission systems under /data. Going from my Transformer, we could mount /data/media (what is mounted as /sdcard, via a FUSE module) to Ubuntu as well, and use it, but it would fill up pretty soon.
          Then the fact that Ubuntu needs an user area, /home, what isn't present in Android. Maybe in the future, we get profiles with our phones, what uses /home, then Ubuntu could use the same interface and store its own files there, but until, it will have duplicate settings. Or, make a way to import settings, apps, runtimes, from Android to Ubuntu, and vice versa :D

  • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

    Fascinating. This here is the future of convergence of mobile and desktop. Motorola had the right idea but piss poor implementation. This is Webtop done right.

    • http://wave-france.blogspot.com supercopter

      +1. And this is the Jelly Bean "Webtop" rumor done right too.

  • Sakuja

    This is like a dream come true.

    Exactly what ive been waiting for.

  • http://www.my-guides.net Muse

    I don't find something useful on that.

  • Rob

    I'd rather see Linux Mint on Android

    "Pull it out and drop it in a docking station, though, and it becomes a full workstation powered by Ubuntu, complete with monitor and keyboard. Sounds incredible, right?"

    No, laptop dock please.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      I'm sure it'll be compatible with all kinds of setups. A hardware laptop dock/shell would be nice indeed.

  • protozeloz

    Ubuntu! <3 I hope they sell this with a dock and could be something users could install even if they need to use SU

  • Wunako

    this would be great, im sure if they are on the verge of doing this, then Google probably is already working on Chromium on our androids in a similar fashion, but who knows, eventually all our smartphones would lead to this, who knows this could mark the end of PC?

    Im also curious to see tablets implement this

  • http://www.theandroidsite.com Ben Marvin


  • edd

    Been wanting this for two years now. Will never need a laptop or Windows again.

  • http://www.swehes.com Hans-Erik (@swehes)

    I have to say I do like this idea.

  • http://blog.ravrahn.net Ravrahn

    I wonder if you could run Eclipse with one of these? That would be pretty awesome. As an avid Ubuntu user, I have to say this is a brilliant idea!

    • Sean King

      i was thinking the same thing! i hope so.

  • micke

    Why wouldn't you? :)

    • Lox

      Eclipse is really, really ressource hungry ...

      It needs a lot of ram for eg....

      @Ravrahn have a look at sublimetext2, it is lightweight is very efficient. You can install lots of extensions like git support.

  • Jon

    It is impossible for Ubuntu to succeed as the lone OS on a device in teh current market. In the current market, Android and iOS dominate with WP7 looming in the background. Canonical neither has market share like Google or Apple nor the brand name of the 2 plus Microsoft. Ubuntu for Android is the best approach because it serves as sort fo a supplement for full desktop computing by way of a mobile cojmputing device, in this case, a phone or tablet. By this way, if Ubuntu for Android works perfectly, Ubuntu and Canonical can gain greater recognition from mainstream users particualrly if it is supported by big name phone manufacturers like Samsung or Asus. The only similar alternative is Motorola's Webtop but that alternative isn't that great an alternative. In this way, Ubuntu can enter the mobile market.

    Best of luck to the team behind Ubuntu fro Android.

  • http://www.academia-nutcrackers.com Sven Enterlein

    How would that work on a tablet? Since it has a nice screen (and the Transformer also has the awesome keyboard dock) it might work just as-is, right?

  • Andy in Indy

    I would rather see them add android system support to the desktop disto.

    Android is getting powerful enough that it can replace the desktop without having to add all that back on. Motorola is on the right track with looking for a way to add full screen HD support for Android vs. trying to add xwindows and a desktop.

    Also, I have never been happy with the ARM based Ubuntu versions I have used. The major software doesn't get ported over to the new processor.

  • Spydie

    Linux might be all right, but I'd rather see a mature OS on our phones and tablets, like Apple OSX (already linux, or Unix, based) or even windows. With a real, mature, OS, we could run programs we already have and love on the phone/tablet (or in my case, the Phablet (Galaxy Note)). Or develop Linux some more so there really are useful programs to run on it instead of the bare-bones email and web browser (we already have those on our phones). I want to run my iphoto, flight sim games, Audacity, DVD copiers, Apple Mail, utorrent, and have full external DVD drive support (which is lacking on everything android right now).

    • fonix232

      - Apple will never disclose the sources of OS X, so it's not possible to compile it for ARM. Also, our phones wouldn't be powerful enough for it.
      - Windows, well, maybe with Win8. But highly unlikely.

      Then now, a rant.
      YOU CALL LINUX AN UNMATURE OS? There was Linux (Unix) when there was no OS X, no Windows, no Android, nothing else! Linux itself has the potential to take over 99% of every workstation, due to the following:
      - Constant updates, fixes, mostly driven by the community (no corporation saying no-go for a feature, or dropping support of older release)
      - Free, open-source - means you'll always get the latest and greatest
      - Native system, resource-efficient, good for anything, runs on anything
      - Basically, combines two front-ends: a developer OS where the user has access to everything, and a top-end OS where the user only has access to what he needs - browser, emails, music, pictures, videos, etc.

      You'd wonder how much programs are out for Linux, and how much MORE USEFUL are out there, than on Apple's systems.
      - iPhoto - you were fkin kidding about this, right? First you bitch about not having any useful apps other than on the phone, then you come with this... Take a look at the Features page of Canonic-Ubuntu for Android, and you'll see how much more are implemented, not just email and browser. VLC Player, chat client, music player, anything you want, anything you can get on a desktop!
      - Flight Sim Games - this isn't for that. It won't replace your gaming tower with a pocket version of everything. Ubuntu for Android is for to have your workstation, your work, everything, with you on the go. Pop it out of your PC at home, go to work, and same interface, same layout awaits, no need to have differences between work and home computer.
      - Audacity - check the iPhoto part, if it has an ARM version, it will be there too.
      - DVD support - why the hell would you like this? DVDs are dead - everyone's using digital data carriers now (pendrives, memory cards), and Android wasn't intended to be a desktop OS for first, and neither is now. It simply doesn't support DVDs because it would have been only an unnecessary hog in the system
      - Apple Mail. See iPhoto. You were bitching about emails, then you come with this sh*t? Seriously, read into it. Thunderbird included -.-
      - uTorrent - Android already has torrent apps, and I think there's an ARM version of uTorrent somewhere too.

      So after all your needs have been fulfilled, are you ready to switch, Apple-boy? Welcome to the world of free, opensource systems, say goodbye to 0.99$ updates, etcetera :D And grow up.

      • Langes01x

        Windows 7 already runs on ARM tablets (there were actually some proof of concepts for it as far back as a year ago). Windows 8 is built specifically with touch in mind and Microsoft has already stated that it will run on ARM processors.

  • Citrus Rain

    The good part is that the other distros are sure to follow up on this. And hopefully Apple and Microsoft do too... without acting like it was their ideas.

    The bad part is Shuttleworth's Unity obsession. I hate having to type for an application to appear when I can't find it in that thing!

  • Adam

    *cough* you already can run ubuntu on android http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1390351

    • Lox

      Seems you have not understood what this news is all about!

      It talks about running ubuntu in parallel over HDMI, using the same running kernel, with integrated android features like network settings, contacts, calling, sms, apps etc...

  • JSmith

    Looks sweet, would love to see a well functioning U-top distro.

  • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

    Updated with video demo.

    • Daniel

      Thanks for the video but it seems to return "Video private" for now... is it just me being outside US or are you guys getting it to?

      • torvald

        Same here dude. I'm not in the USA either.

  • Sootie

    This is fantastic news, I will soon be able to go to work plug my phone into my monitor and keyboard fire up xen desktop and work as I do now from my $1500 desktop computer on my phone plus added benefits like being able to listen to my music collection and watch my movies etc (at lunchtime... maybe).

    Can we have dual monitors....

    The possibilities for this are endless, literally a real desktop OS on a phone will change everything

  • Alex1x

    Tell me I can install the full Microsoft Office and I'm in...

    • Lox

      Office 2007 runs nicely under wine so it should run in that setup.

      Also LibreOffice is a more than decent alternative.

  • Ishken

    I would prefer a Unity-less Ubuntu shell. The AndOS 4 ICS interface is already very useful and translates well to larger screens. Really, Google needs to ditch ChromiumOS and fully develop AndOS into a full, cross platform operating system. This idea is a good push in the right direction, but I think the involvement of Canonical and Ubuntu is going to cause adverse design effects. Anyone know if Duarte has posted anything about this? He is the AndOS design guru now. His input would be appreciated.

  • Freak4Dell

    This seemed a lot more useful before I knew that it had to be docked. If I have to dock it, I'd rather just jump on my real desktop, or pull out my laptop.

    Call me when they actually put a desktop OS on the phone that can be operated on the phone.

  • PaleFlyer

    Freak4Dell, go back about 3 years, and get Windows 6.5... about as close to Desktop on Phone as they will get. your other option is to install Ubuntu on your device, running as a VM...

    • Freak4Dell

      Haha...I was an avid WM fan. Only reason I gave it up is because all support had ended.

      • Lox

        I don't the point of needing a desktop OS on a phone ....

        I much prefer an OS optimised for phones on a ... phone ...

        That concept of my phone being able to become a real computer when I am at home is stunning. I love it.

  • http://metin2wiki.ru CSRedRat

    When this done?