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Canonical unveils Ubuntu for tablets

Slate-based UI revealed for the first time

By MARK JONES

Published: 19 February, 2013

READ MORE: US | OS

Canonical has already taken the covers off the mobile version of its OS, for smartphones, now it has unveiled the version of Ubuntu that will find a home on tablets. The developer preview of the OS for smartphones is due to be released on Thursday this week for the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4. Surprisingly, considering it's only just been made official, the tablet OS is going to touch down on the same day and is going to be compatible with the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10.

Ubuntu for tablets is aimed at consumers and business users alike and will run on tablets with screen sizes ranging from 6" to 20". Just like the smartphone OS the tablet version can be docked with a monitor, keyboard and mouse allowing the device to power a full PC experience. While it's said it will run on low-end hardware only the better spec'd tablets will be able to take advantage of this docking feature.

It might be a while until we see the finished product but the developer preview of Ubuntu will feature "side stage", which allows a smartphone app and tablet app to be displayed on the same screen at the same time. Developers will also get to play with Ubuntu's voice-controlled heads up display and navigation from all sides of the screen.

Although the announcement of the tablet UI is no surprise, it does highlight that in some respects Ubuntu is a step ahead of where Microsoft wants to be with its Windows platform. The OS means that Canonical will have unified a desktop and mobile interface across all devices, be that device a PC, smartphone or tablet.

For families and anybody who owns a tablet which has multiple users the Ubuntu mobile OS offers multiple account support. It also has a customisable homescreen which should be welcome news for carriers wondering how they'll customise the platform.

Eager developers with the necessary gadgetry can download the OS starting tomorrow from developer.ubuntu.com. Eager to please Canonical is even offering to install the OS on devices at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week.

There's no word yet on when we can expect the first tablets running the OS natively to land but a handset running Ubuntu for phones is due out later this year.

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