Rumors swirl as Ubuntu prepares 'disruptive' announcement

A teaser on the home page of popular Linux distribution Ubuntu hints at a major new smartphone and tablet-related release, as time ticks down to an announcement set for 1 p.m. EST.

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The tagline "so close, you can almost touch it," combined with Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth's post-Christmas message vowing a new focus on mobility in 2013 has Ubuntu-watchers predicting a major new step into the mobile world.

"Unity in 2013 will be all about mobile - bringing Ubuntu to phones and tablets. Shaping Unity to provide the things we've learned are most important across all form factors, beautifully. Broadening the Ubuntu community to include mobile developers who need new tools and frameworks to create mobile software. Defining new form factors that enable new kinds of work and play altogether," wrote Shuttleworth on Dec. 26.

A version of Ubuntu for Android is already available, boasting desktop integration and robust multi-core support, though it's really more of an add-on than a full mobile OS.

Canonical, then, could be preparing to announce anything from a touch-centric version of Ubuntu optimized for use as a stand-alone mobile platform to its own custom tablet. The company has pursued an Apple-esque policy in promoting the announcement, hinting strongly at possibilities but declining to provide specific details ahead of time.

It's difficult to get a sense of Canonical's prospects in the mobile market. While it's far more fluid than the world of desktop and laptop PCs - where Linux in general has had a hard time catching on among average consumers - Google and Apple have commanding market share leads that could limit Ubuntu's appeal as a platform, regardless of whether Canonical opts to release its own hardware.

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