Smartphones running Ubuntu Linux from Canonical may soon support not just mobile apps, but all programs for open source, Linux-based platforms. That's according to developers working on bleeding-edge versions of Ubuntu for phones.
Ubuntu-based phones have already been out since early this year. But so far, they don't fully deliver on Canonical's longstanding promise to "converge" Ubuntu across multiple form factors—which means giving users the same features and functionality in the Linux-based OS, whether they are running it on a desktop, laptop, tablet, phone or TV.
This week, Ubuntu developer Michael Hall posted proof of Canonical's progress toward full Ubuntu convergence in the form of a screenshot from an Ubuntu-based Nexus 4 running desktop apps, including GIMP and Firefox.
Hall emphasized that the software in the image remains very much under development. "Lots of work still to do to make these useful, but it's great to be able to show visible progress," he wrote.
After Hall posted the screenshot, Softpedia confirmed with him that Canonical's plan is indeed to make it possible to run any Linux application on Ubuntu.
As Hall recognized, not all Linux applications designed for desktops and laptops are likely to work well on phones, for practical reasons. "I doubt anybody would expect window controls and GIMP to play well on [small screens]," he wrote, noting that the graphics-manipulation program would be difficult to use without a bigger screen and traditional peripheral devices.
Still, across-the-board support for Linux apps on phones would be a standout feature for Ubuntu. Android, the more popular Linux-based mobile operating system, can't actually run standard Linux apps at all. Generally speaking, Apple's (APPL) iOS and Microsoft (MSFT) Windows for phones also don't support the desktop versions of apps for their respective ecosystems.
So this could prove an important selling point for Canonical in a crowded niche—though, again, whether the feature would appeal to a wide audience depends on how willing open source programmers are to design Linux apps that can be both PC- and phone-friendly at the same time.