Canonical, the company behind the highly successful Linux distribution, Ubuntu, announced a new addition to their operating system line-up: a smartphone OS. Ubuntu for phones has been long overdue, coming nearly a year after the announcement of Ubuntu for Android, which runs Ubuntu alongside Android, allowing users to dock their phones to a monitor and use a keyboard for PC-like functionality. This latest announcement, however, is all Ubuntu, and Canonical claims their phone OS will run on your “typical Android Board Support Package (BSP). This means Ubuntu is ready to run on the most cost-efficient chipset designs.”

The company hopes Ubuntu phones will begin shipping in early 2014, but has yet to announce any official partners. So the goal of this well-organized announcement seems to not only be to gauge consumer interest for an Ubuntu phone OS, but to show off for OEM manufacturers such as HTC and Samsung. With iOS and Android ruling the market and Windows Phone gaining steam, Ubuntu for phones may be destined to simply be a hobbyist OS.

Despite the overwhelming competition, Canonical has crafted a truly beautiful smartphone operating system. Ubuntu phones will operate using gestures, meaning there will be no physical or on-screen buttons for controls like you’d find on Android phones. Each edge of the screen will be swipeable to open menus.

Ubuntu Phone OS

Canonical describes this new interface in six key points:

1. Edge magic: thumb gestures from all four edges of the screen enable users to find content and switch between apps faster than other phones.
2. Deep content immersion – controls appear only when the user wants them.
3. A beautiful global search for apps, content and products.
4. Voice and text commands in any application for faster access to rich capabilities.
5. Both native and web or HTML5 apps.
6. Evolving personalised art on the welcome screen.

Much like iOS and Android, Ubuntu’s phone OS will feature a notification center. However, Ubuntu allows for integration of web apps, meaning you’ll no longer need a standalone app for Facebook or Twitter. With Ubuntu, websites can function as an app without being native or installed from an app store like you would normally find on other platforms.

Speaking of apps, Ubuntu’s Software Center, the application hub of the desktop version of Ubuntu will be used as an app store on future phones. And the cloud storage service, Ubuntu One, will also be integrated for both developers and users.

Ubuntu Phone Announced

Much like Ubuntu for Android, the standalone Ubuntu phone OS will feature the ability to connect a monitor, keyboard, and mouse to your phone when docked. Ubuntu’s phone OS will then transform into the full desktop version, allowing for a full computing experience through a smartphone. And with high-end phones becoming more and more powerful with up to 2GB of RAM, quad-core CPUs, and dedicated graphics processors, a phone that doubles as a PC actually sounds viable.

In a press release, Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu said: “We are defining a new era of convergence in technology, with one unified operating system that underpins cloud computing, data centers, PCs and consumer electronics”. So, it seems Ubuntu for phones is just another piece of the technology world that Canonical wants to conquer.