Canonical Takes a Step in Bringing Ubuntu to Tablets

Canonical this week released a software framework that brings multitouch interaction to the open-source Ubuntu OS, which could accelerate adoption of the OS on tablets.

The uTouch 1.0 software stack brings advanced touch-screen capabilities to Ubuntu, said Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical, in an e-mail. Users will be able to use multiple screens on touch screens or trackpads to switch between applications and windows, or to reveal and hide panels.

"Developers could adopt uTouch for their tablets -- the absence of a gesture system has been a common problem for them," Shuttleworth said.

Canonical doesn't have immediate plans for release of a specific tablet version of Ubuntu, Shuttleworth said. However, he knows of many core developers building Linux-based tablets using Ubuntu's underlying stack -- called Ubuntu Core -- as a base. He declined to reveal any names.

"The relationships are ... confidential, so I can't say which of the Ubuntu Core devices are done with our help I'm afraid," Shuttleworth said.

But he said that those companies could well adopt uTouch for use on their tablets.

"It's great to work with companies putting their own UI on Ubuntu," Shuttleworth said. "I'm pretty sure uTouch will be embraced by the Ubuntu Core adopters, some of whom will build tablets."

Canonical's main focus will remain on laptops and netbooks, he said. The upcoming Ubuntu Netbook Edition will include a user interface that will be fully touch-enabled.

"We are focused on netbooks as we think there will be millions of them shipped over the next year, more and more with multitouch-capable trackpads or touch screens," Shuttleworth said.

The company in the past has said that Ubuntu's netbook UI, called Unity, could also work with tablet-like devices. The next version of Ubuntu, version 10.10, also code-named Maverick Meerkat, is in testing right now and is due for release on Oct. 10.

While most smartphones and tablets have touch capabilities, the feature has been slow to reach netbooks and laptops. A few laptops, like Dell's Latitude XT2, have touch capabilities. Other operating systems like Windows 7 and Intel's Meego OS also include touch-screen capabilities.

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