Developers got their first hands-on peek yesterday of Canonical's Ubuntu Touch OS for mobile phones, with the release of the first developer beta. So did I.
The good news: Ubuntu Touch is a more compelling mobile environment, even in the first developer version, than I expected. It borrows heavily from other mobile UIs, including BlackBerry 10, the iPad, Android, WebOS, and Windows Phone, yet manages to feel like its own OS. It's much too soon to rate, but the OS is promising, for reasons I explain shortly.
The bad news for eager users: This is a "don't try this at home" release, which the formal instructions do not strongly clue you in on. And you can install it on only a handful of Google devices, including the Galaxy Nexus smartphone, Nexus 4 smartphone, and Nexus 7 tablet, and doing so wipes out the Android OS on them. You need to first unlock the bootloader on the Android device (easily done), run the installer from an Ubuntu Linux PC or a VM running that OS, then go to the Terminal and issue the various Linux commands to download and install the system image. That's not so hard, but you need to make sure the Android device doesn't fall asleep during the install -- the install aborts if it does.
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