Canonical reveals their uber-gesturey new Ubuntu smartphone OS | webOS Nation
 
 

Canonical reveals their uber-gesturey new Ubuntu smartphone OS 14

by Derek Kessler Wed, 02 Jan 2013 9:23 pm EST

Canonical reveals their uber-gesturey new Ubuntu smartphone OS

Open source! Free! Gestures galore!

Today brought a surprise from London with Canonical's newly announced Ubuntu for smartphones. We're not going to be too critical of Ubuntu here, after all, we write about webOS here, we don't have many legs to stand on when it comes to mocking other operating systems. So… good luck with that.

Canonical's Ubuntu operating system has ben around for years for the desktop and they've recently been making a good deal of noise about extending Ubuntu to other platforms, wanting to get Ubuntu running on screens big, medium, and small with the same general interface. You know, like Open webOS.

Where Ubuntu 12 on the desktop is a fairly intuitive and easy-to-grasp user interface that relies on pre-existing interface conventions in common with Windows (pre-Windows 8, that is) and Mac OS X, Ubuntu for smartphones offers a fairly fresh take on the smartphone user interface. One can look at Ubuntu for phones and see where certain parts of the OS may have taken inspiration, with heavy doses of BlackBerry PlayBook and BlackBerry 10 along with measures of Android, Windows Phone, and webOS. Ubuntu for phones is far more reliant on gestures than any smartphone OS to date, perhaps to its detriment.

Where gestures in webOS were relatively easy to grasp (swipe back, swipe up, and swipe off), Ubuntu for smartphones is entirely dependent on gestures to to the point that user interface discoverability has all but evaporated. webOS had some small discoverability issues, iOS and Windows Phone have always been perfectly obvious, and Android has greatly improved on the discoverability front. Ubuntu, on the other hand, requires knowing gestures just to get past the lock, er, 'welcome' screen. As John Gruber of Daring Fireball put it, "it’s like a desktop interface with nothing but keyboard shortcuts."

Ubuntu for phones also faces the same set of issues as webOS: convincing manufacturers to pick it up and run with it. It's hard to say who has the tougher road here, though the two Linux-based operating systems both have a difficult path to acceptance ahead of them. And hey, they both run on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. That's fun, right?

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14 Comments

Gurrk! I find Unity quite more clunky than the Windows interface. Like not having easily accessible close buttons, using Alt-` to switch between windows of the same app (do we really need the distinction), and the launcher that insists on opening a current instance than launching a new one (even on right clicking the bold item does that; you have to click on New Window). I think the Ubuntu phone UI is overloading gestures to the point where they may no longer be few and easy to remember.

I find it funny how the guy says "this combination of left and right edge makes Ubuntu the handiest phone for using multiple apps to get stuff done faster." I beg to differ. LunaCE lets you use the left, right, and bottom edges, and also the wave launcher, that allows you to go back and forth between two apps even faster than cycling through all open apps with the right edge only. Have I mentioned that we have stacks that are also accessible from a sidebar? That settings thing webOS got parts of, and you can get more with that supermix patch that makes your system menu extra long.

You can't remember 4 gestures? One for each side?
That's just sad.
And probably not true. So why the hyperbole?

What do you mean with "not easily accessible close buttons". I clearly see a close button on the corner of every window - just like on all the other platforms.

What's your beef with bringing the running application to the front? That's just sensible default behaviour. That's what most people would want most of the time. And the new window is only 1 extra click away.

I have issues with Unity. I find it very annoying that I have to disable the damn stupid global menu every time I install it for example.
But every issue you mentioned is either trivial or not an issue at all (no idea what happened to your close buttons). If you don't need alt-' then simply don't use it (I didn't even knew it was there).

I agree that the webos UI is still better (based on what I have seen so far). But Ubuntu phone UI get's closer to that simple and efficient elegance than any other phone UI so far

And tiny Canonical just showed a better UI (well - for me at least) than mighty MS with it's horrible (and failing) Metro mess (much of it is a matter of taste though).

Wow, so a standard 104 keys keyboard must be a real nightmare to you ;-)))

We humans have a wonderful thing called motor or muscle memory built in our bodies. It allows us to type on standard keyboards without thinking about the locations of the letters. It also allows us to drive non-automatic gear cars without problems. Some of us do that even if we are so drunk that we are barely able to walk.

Muscle memory can be a bitch, too, of course. Whenever I take out the iPad my Boss gave to me some months ago, I always try to swipe over the screen from bottom to top, if I want to close an app.

Never liked the desktop to like its mobile OS. Sucking fugly.

would be interesting to see the price point on these and if they are any easier to port open webOS to than some of the android device out there. Wish I knew more about linux and how to write code cause i'd give it a shot, but I don't...

I've been thinking about putting Ubuntu on my TouchPad since the webOS browser is becoming unusable, and I refuse to use anything Google-related.

One more linux system that needs hardware to run on. So when other devs try to bring ubuntu mobile to other phones, it's good for webOS by using their drivers/HW optimization.

Perhaps a new time is ahead where it's not that important which OS you use with which hardware (like x86 Desktop). Android, webOS, FirefoxOS, Ubuntu mobile, MeeGo/Jolla... could run on any ARM hardware when drivers are available. It's the software OS/eco system that counts then.

btw. i like settings interface, even if we functionalwise the same on webOS

Let's hope that manufacturers are happy about making it easy to unlock bootloaders. Maybe in the future mobile phones can be like PC in that they can dual- or triple-boot operating systems and still work fine.

Well, I watched their video, and for once I have to say I'm impressed. What they have done is kinda like Palm/HP tried but in reverse. They already have a strong desktop following (no really they do), and the Open Source community as well as partners are very well on-board and have been for some time. The mobile phone for them is huge, but not critical to the survival of the company. Palm/HP on the other hand required the phone to 'Take Off', before coming through with Desktop and datacentre features (that we of course never saw). So, whilst WebOS still looks the easiest to use and should get credit for cloud integration before other products, this one actually pulls off something nobody else does, cross platform (read device), integration with the cloud for your stuff! It may not be the most intuitive OS to start with, but it scores on every other level. They need to ensure any hardware partners provide sleek devices, and that the Developer communities (not just OpenSource), get on board and produce a competative catalog.

The only other negative I see here, is that WebOS has not yet made a similar announcement?! How far is anyone on either version of WebOS behind these guys wth regards to putting out hardware - I expect to see a Ubuntu-Phone before the next WebOS device - and that would be a shame!

agree shoppc... Nice vid but think for a minute how stoked we would all be if a manufacturer or HP was doing this video about webOS. So sad that the heavy lifting of getting webOS to the masses is being left to a dedicated few. As if that's ever going to get webOS mainstream...

Did you really just call IOS "perfectly obvious"!? I've had my Ipad for six months now and still have difficulty with the gestures.

Yup - don't get that either.

The way IOS handles it's non-multitasking with double pressing the home button is a pain.

Android is slightly better with that - but still not close to the simple elegance of webos.
It's mind-boggling that neither of these giant companies has managed to catch up with webos UI - even years later and 1 year after HP dropped it.

I wish a company with resources, vision and will to effectively compete (HP fails utterly on 2 out of 3) would simply steal the core features of webos.
Canonical at least made a decent effort on gestures and elegant simplicity and provides something very close to Just Type (which I miss a lot on Android).

I'm curious to see how they handle Contacts, Accounts, etc...

This, Jolla (Sailfish OS), Open WebOS, what more? (Bada, whatever)

The real task is to convince manufacturers to produce a device that runs whatever OS I want on them.

For me as a Linux guy it's obvious that I'm not going to buy a Computer if I can't install Linux on it. And that's not enough, I also want to install Linux without tinkering with strange bootloaders, etc. Today's mobile devices have more power than the old netbooks we had some years ago. Every Android device is a Linux device and still most manufacturers trying to prevent us geeks from installing whatever we want.

Nexus devices come close to what I expect to be a perfect mobile device for me.