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Ubuntu Touch Developer Preview Will Be Released This Week

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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On Thursday, Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4 will be able to transform into Ubuntu developer phones

On Thursday, Canonical will treat the developer community to a preview of its upcoming mobile OS, when it releases the Touch Develop Preview version of Ubuntu for phones – although some open source experts have cast doubts on its claim to bring Ubuntu to a mobile device.

The company will provide source code and complete system images, ready to be installed on Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus and LG’s Nexus 4 smartphones.

Canonical has also announced that it will offer to ‘flash’ certain smartphones on the spot at the Ubuntu booth during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week.

A milestone

Ubuntu on a phone, announced in January, is Canonical’s main weapon in the fight for the growing mobile market. Essentially, it is the familiar desktop OS with an interface designed for touch interaction and small screen size.

Ubuntu on a phoneFrom Thursday, enthusiasts and developers will be able to start putting the new OS (or new flavour of an old OS) through its paces. Canonical has already released Preview SDK and App Design Guides, explaining how to build apps for touchscreen interfaces.

“Our platform supports a wide range of screen sizes and resolutions. Developers who have experience bringing up phone environments will find it relatively easy to port Ubuntu to current handsets,” said Pat McGowan, who leads the integration effort that produced the OS images. “We look forward to adding support for additional devices for everyday testing and experimentation.”

Blackberry Touch developers will be familiar with the Qt/QML environment that enables rich, well-optimised native apps on Ubuntu. Developers that work with more universal HTML5 applications should also easily adapt to the new environment.

Canonical says that the release “marks the start of a new era for Ubuntu”, since the OS is the first to use the same code across mobile, tablet, desktop and even TV platforms. The true convergence will begin in October with Ubuntu 13.10, which will include complete entry-level smartphone functionality.

“This release marks the threshold of wider engagement – both with industry and community.” said Mark Shuttleworth, Canonical founder and current design lead. “For developers, contributors and partners, there is now a coherent experience that warrants attention. The cleanest, most stylish mobile interface around.”

However, Aaron Seigo, who has contributed to the KDE free software community for the last 13 years, has questioned Canonical’s vision of “one OS to rule them all”, since Ubuntu’s Unity currently does not use QML at all, and hence, cannot be transplanted into a mobile OS using “the same code”.

“It is not the sort of seamless cross-device technology bridge that they are purporting,” said Seigo, before warning the developer community to take Canonical’s claims with a pinch of salt to avoid being “duped”.

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