Windows 8 may not be the only new software platform coming to tablets.
Canonical, the company behind the Linux-based open source operating system Ubuntu, is reportedly in talks with hardware partners to manufacture Ubuntu-powered tablets and smartphones.
According to a report by ZDNet earlier today, Canonical expects the new devices to be available by next year.
In a report on Canonical’s release of the 12.04 version of Ubuntu today, the Chinese site tech.sina.com.cn quoted Ubuntu’s chief representative in China as saying Ubuntu for the "Tablet PC" will be launched next year.
Canonical has been moving to tablet support for awhile and has certified tablets, like some of Lenovo’s ThinkPad tablet line, for downloading its software. The idea behind Ubuntu tablets is that they would be preloaded by manufacturers as the primary operating system.
From a usability point of view, Ubuntu already supports tablet-style user interfaces. A year ago Canonical released Ubuntu 11.04 that includes full support for touch screens with finger swipe and touch for scrolling as well as expanding and contracting screens.
Canonical’s tablet ambitions haven’t been a secret. Mark Shuttleworth, Canonical’s founder, said last year that the company would look to expand to tablets after the release of 12.04 as part of its mission of making Ubuntu “Linux for human beings” more widely available.
"As people have moved from desktop to new form factors for computing, it's important for us to reach out to community on these platforms,” he told ZDNet last October. “So, we'll embrace the challenge of how to use Ubuntu on smartphones, tablets and smart-screens."
Sean Michael Kerner, a veteran freelance technology reporter who’s covered Canonical for years, says an Ubuntu tablet would give Linux users another, more portable form factor. “It also would give them the potential ability to have the same OS on a tablet as a desktop,” he said. “That’s going to make it easier for syncronization of data and apps.”