Christopher Tozzi, Contributing Editor

October 29, 2012

3 Min Read
Canonical Puts Ubuntu on Nexus 7 Tablet

If you want to use Ubuntu Linux on your tablet, you’re in luck — if you happen to own a Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Nexus 7, at least. That device, which Canonical has targeted as a proving ground for Ubuntu on mobile devices, can now run the operating system. Here are the details, and some thoughts on Canonical’s approach to conquering the mobile world.

As we noted earlier, Canonical has committed to a strong focus on putting Ubuntu on tablets, smartphones, TVs and other emerging hardware devices. And with the development cycle for the next Ubuntu release, version 13.04, starting to get under way after the introduction of the last release a couple of weeks ago, Canonical developers have begun working to make good on that promise.

Already, they’ve reached a first major milestone by building an image of Ubuntu that can be installed on the Nexus 7 tablet. And not only is installation possible, but it’s actually remarkably easy if one follows these simple instructions, which explain how to perform the installation from an Ubuntu desktop machine using a simple graphical interface.

For Canonical, getting Ubuntu running on a tablet is no mean feat. Beyond Android, which is a far cry from traditional desktop Linux distributions, no mainstream version of Linux currently works on tablet hardware. Canonical has pioneered something pretty original here, at least within the open source channel.

Future Plans

Going forward, as Ubuntu Community Manager Jono Bacon explained recently, Canonical plans to invite community members to provide feedback on their experience with Ubuntu on the Nexus 7, while also overseeing development initiatives to make Ubuntu run better on the device.

In the short term, the goal is to have Ubuntu running well on the Nexus 7 by the time of the 13.04 release in April. Ultimately, however, Canonical hopes to use this initiative as a launching ground for moving into the mobile market more generally by preparing Ubuntu to run on all kinds of tablets, smartphones and similar devices.

(Not to mention TVs, about which Canonical representatives have also spoken excitedly in the past — though the leap from the Nexus 7 to a TV seems like a considerably larger one than to, say, an iPad, and it’s not yet clear what exactly Canonical plans to do in the TV space.)

Arguably, entering the mobile world focused on one specific hardware profile may be tricky. Canonical will have to work hard to ensure that as developers tweak Ubuntu for the Nexus 7, they also keep in mind the larger goal of building a generic mobile platform. Otherwise, the company runs the risk of debuting a mobile operating system full of hacks that apply only to one particular tablet and will be of little use for extending Ubuntu’s reach to other devices.

Still, what Canonical has already done is impressive, and serves to dispel criticisms that all the buzz about Ubuntu and mobile computing was just talk. It’s now something you can hold in your hand.

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About the Author(s)

Christopher Tozzi

Contributing Editor

Christopher Tozzi started covering the channel for The VAR Guy on a freelance basis in 2008, with an emphasis on open source, Linux, virtualization, SDN, containers, data storage and related topics. He also teaches history at a major university in Washington, D.C. He occasionally combines these interests by writing about the history of software. His book on this topic, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” is forthcoming with MIT Press.

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