After unveiling its phone OS last month, Canonical is today launching its new tablet-ready Ubuntu interface. Like the phone experience, Ubuntu for tablets is optimized for touch, relying on edge gestures for navigation — there are no physical buttons required. If you've seen our hands-on with Ubuntu for phones, everything will look fairly familiar: the main interface itself is similar to the phones OS, with the same focus on a universal hub for search, apps, and content, while the notification center utilizes sideways swipes to give you quick access to things like settings, mail, and tweets.
The tablet UI is based on the same OS and code — albeit optimized for ARM and x86 Atom chips — as the regular and phone versions of Ubuntu, which Canonical says enables "true device convergence." That means if you plug your phone or tablet into a TV, you’ll have access to either the PC or TV Ubuntu interface and apps. Canonical teases that a PadFone-like device could essentially be all you'll ever need — phone, tablet, media streamer, and PC.
Although it shares most of its code with the desktop Ubuntu, Canonical has added a new multitasking mode for tablets that seems heavily influenced by Windows 8. "Side Stage" lets users run apps in phone mode in a side window, just like Windows’ Snap View feature. Tablets will also have voice control through Ubuntu’s HUD interface, which it introduced last year. Being Ubuntu, the OS will support multiple users and guest mode, letting you share your tablet with others.
Ubuntu Touch Developer Preview will support the Nexus 4, 7, and 10
Just as with its phone interface, Canonical isn’t ready to announce any hardware partners or devices just yet — it's only saying that the tablet experience will be fully integrated with Ubuntu 14.04 next year. The company says its tablet interface will be available on devices ranging from 6 to 20 inches, and has a list of minimum specs on its website. Those include an A15 processor, 2GB of RAM, and a minimum of 8GB of storage. Although the new UI isn't ready for public consumption, Canonical is releasing the Ubuntu Touch Developer Preview for Google’s Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets. That's in addition to the Nexus 4 and Galaxy Nexus smartphones that are already confirmed developer devices. You'll be able to download it from February 21st on the Ubuntu Developer site.