Brace yourself, Internet. I am about to say something nice about Ubuntu and Canonical. In fact… a whole mess of nice things. This article is going to be lousy with compliments of Ubuntu.
I just watched a video, from XDA, that showed a live demo of Ubuntu that, I kid you not, made me do a little happy dance. Just so we're on the same page, go watch that video right now. At least up to about the 4-minute mark where the hands-on demo of the tablet ends.
Now… OK. I need to do a little mental reset here.
Over the last few years I have been more than a little disappointed in Ubuntu. I've been disappointed in implementation details. I've been disappointed in the lack of available mobile hardware. Just… just… damned disappointed. The team at Canonical (and the broader Ubuntu community) are capable of so much that it bums me out when they don't live up to their potential.
After watching this video, that all melted away. For two, absolutely wonderful, reasons.
First, the “convergence” vision actually appears to be reaching a point where it is usable. Take a phone (or tablet), plug in a monitor and you've got yourself a full desktop PC. Not just that… but a full desktop that can run traditional Linux software like LibreOffice and Gimp with state preserved between “mobile” mode and “desktop” mode. This is a big freaking deal.
And, what's more, it appeared to be working rather well with quite a few nice touches. The phone, when docked to a monitor, even becomes an input device; You can use it as a touchpad mouse and a virtual keyboard. Not necessarily something I'd use very often (if I'm docked to a monitor I probably have a keyboard handy) but a cool detail just the same.
Then, after that was demoed, the tablet came out. At which point I believe I began drooling a little.
On that Ubuntu Touch tablet was running Gimp in “single window” mode. This, all by itself, is great. The idea that I could have a Linux-powered tablet (that's not Android), upon which I can run the software I rely on every day (the desktop Linux applications we all know and love), is an absolute dream. But it gets better.
Dragging down from the top of the screen, on the tablet, revealed an option called, simply, “Desktop Mode”. One little tap of that toggle button and – shazam! – the user experience changed from the “everything is full screen, touch-focused, mobile interface” to… a more traditional looking desktop. Complete with movable, layered and re-sizable windows.
All while preserving state when switching between “touch” mode and “Desktop” mode. My mind is spinning with the possibilities.
To everyone at Canonical (and the Ubuntu project) that has worked on this: Well freaking done. You all deserve a rather hearty high-five.
Now get that tablet shipping so I can play with it.