The first Ubuntu tablet is a desktop too

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The mobile revolution may have put computers in our pockets, but we've also ended up with all kinds of different-sized devices -- you may well be walking round with a phone, a tablet and a laptop in your bag before you sit down at your desktop PC. The new BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition goes someway to solving that, as it's a tablet that also works as a laptop and a desktop.

Built by Spanish company BQ, the 10-inch M10 is the first tablet to use the Ubuntu operating system. It joins the Ubuntu Editions of the Aquaris E4.5 and E5 HD smartphones and the MX4 smartphone built by China's Meizu.

Ubuntu is a long-established open-source operating system originally for computers, beloved among developers and tinkerers looking for an alternative to Windows or Macs. But in recent years, Canonical, the British company behind Ubuntu, has expanded the operating system so it works in other devices, from phones to drones. The unique selling point is that the same software underpins phones, tablets and computers, unlike, say, Apple's mobile devices and computers, which have similar-looking but very different software.

The advantage of this converged approach is that the tablet can also essentially become a laptop or a desktop computer just by plugging in a monitor via the HDMI port or connecting a keyboard and mouse via Bluetooth. The interface changes from a touch-friendly tablet interface to a desktop interface for use with keyboard and mouse. Apps go from full-screen to floating windows you can resize and move around, just like you see on Windows and Mac computers.

Plug the M10 into a monitor and it becomes a desktop PC with a different interface.

Canonical

When you're using it as a regular tablet, the M10 uses the extra space by expanding apps, and also has a useful split-screen feature called Side Stage. One app takes up part of the screen, with another sat next to it so you can refer between the two or copy information.

Behind the scenes, Ubuntu's convergence is designed to help the ecosystem to grow. There's no point buying into a new ecosystem if there aren't any apps, but equally there's no incentive for developers to make those apps if nobody's buying the phones. This is a real hassle as developers have to build different versions of their apps for the iPhone, iPad and iMac or for different Android devices, but less of a problem for Ubuntu when they only need to build one app and it will work on any Ubuntu phone, tablet or computer.

The M10 tablet has a 10.1-inch high-definition display. The screen is protected by Asahi Dragontrail glass, a rival to the tough Gorilla Glass used for the displays of devices including Samsung and HTC smartphones. It's 8.2mm thick and weighs 470 grams (16.6 ounces), feeling lightweight and easy to handle.

The Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition tablet will be on sale around March via BQ's online store. It will be available globally, including the US. Because it's a Wi-Fi tablet with no cellular connection, you don't have to worry whether it'll work with your local mobile data bands.

BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition specs:

  • 10.1 inch touchscreen
  • MediaTek quad-core MT8163A 1.5GHz processor
  • 7,280mAh Li-Po battery
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB internal storage
  • MicroSD slot (up to 64GB)
  • 8-megapixel camera with autofocus and dual flash
  • 1080p video
  • Frontal speakers
  • Micro HDMI port
  • Dimensions: 246 by 171 by 8.2mm

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​BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition

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