For April 2014′s release of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, Canonical are aiming to release version 1.0 of the Ubuntu for Tablets for the Nexus 7 and 10 hardware.
Ubuntu Touch images are already available for both tablets but lack support for hardware features like camera and sensors. Similarly, both the UI and Mir, the display server, lack tablet-specific optimisations.
Work on improving ‘side-stage’, the Windows 8-like feature for running two applications on screen side-by-side, will also get underway. To make use of this, many of Ubuntu’s core apps will be adapted to become “convergent” – better able to make use of larger screens and tablet workflows.
Several apps will also be redesigned.
Canonical Community Manager Jono Bacon says that ‘press, carriers and OEMs‘ are ‘excited’ by the tablet OS story, adding that tablets are “easy…for people to ship” due to the need to pass through fewer regulatory checks and certifications.
With no major carriers or OEMs yet to signal plans to adopt Ubuntu Phone, Canonical’s mobile plans may fare better on tablets. The cost to market is lower, with small computer resellers able to buy and import no-brand tablets from abroad and install the OS themselves.
Emulator, Phone 1.5 & New-Look Apps
While the push on the Tablet front will, Bacon says, command ‘a big chunk of focus’ this cycle, it’s not the only effort getting underway.
Work on adding an emulator to the Ubuntu SDK is ongoing. The goal is to allow developers lacking reference hardware the ability to test and iterate their apps within the Ubuntu Touch framework.
Ubuntu Phone 1.5
Ubuntu for Phones will reach version 1.5 in April next year. This milestone will feature improvements to the OS, including limits on the amount of memory apps can access and battery life optimisations.
Other key aspects, like vibration support, a way to shutdown and restart the phone, app ratings, reviews and purchases, etc, will also feature. So too will a set of ‘expanded scopes’ featuring refinements to the way results are displayed and filtered.
The Ubuntu desktop is unlikely to see any major changes this cycle, with Unity 7 remaining in ‘maintenance mode’.
The aim is to offer a preview session of Unity 8 (not desktop optimised) running on Mir as a login option in 14.04 LTS.
Full desktop convergence is not planned until nearer Ubuntu 14.10, due October 2014. Even then this is only a goal. The sheer undertaking involved in tailoring Unity 8 and Mir for desktop use may see it pushed back to Ubuntu 15.04.