Ubuntu for Android pictures and hands-on

Canonical has come up with an idea for really putting purpose into your multicore Android phone. So powerful have mobiles become in the past 12 months that the London-based company is suggesting we use them to power our desktop computers - and power them on Ubuntu, of course. Pocket-lint took some time at Mobile World Congress 2012 to see what the company was talking about.

The demo set up included a keyboard and mouse with a monitor showing a pretty normal-looking version of Ubuntu running quite happily on it. But look a little closer and there was no computer tower, no box, just a Motorola Atrix 2 set upon an arbitrary dock with a few wires sticking out of the back of it. The whole computing experience runs straight from the mobile, allowing you to take your desktop in your pocket wherever you go.

It's all possible because Android and Ubuntu share the same Linux kernel on the phone and can quite happily co-exist. Add in the fact that Ubuntu is an incredibly light operating system and it's easy to see how a dual- or quad-core CPU, backed up by the impressive kinds of GPUs and RAM packs that we get these days, can easily power a desktop experience. All the phone really needs beyond that is an HDMI-out and USB support for connecting to the monitor and peripherals.

The added bonus comes in with the development of 4G technologies, meaning that you'll also get a speedy internet connection included but, of course, if there's a wireless network in the location, then the phone and system could jump on that as well.

As for the actual workings, it's essentially identical to desktop Ubuntu for the time being. You get access to all the usual Ubuntu apps with the only proviso that these apps have to be optimised for ARM architecture which, fortunately, most of them are. The idea is to include some certified business apps from the off as well including software from Adobe, Citrix and VMWare.

Your Ubuntu-enabled phone will be able to share with the desktop everything you have in the Android side of your handset - calendar synchronisation, video, music, social network accounts, browsing sessions and history and even contacts for you to make calls from your computer. So, you might be reading a web page on the go, then set down at your desk, plug in your handset, the Ubuntu desktop fires up and there's the same page but full screen instead. Very simple really, but very clever indeed.

For now, of course, it's just a demo but the main reason Canonical was at the show in Barcelona was to chat with the mobile phone manufacturers and start convincing them that enabling their devices to work with Ubuntu in this way is a very easy and very good idea - which it absolutely is. We can only hope they listen.