But you don't have to be there in order to try it out. Thanks toposted online, you can check out an Ubuntu tablet for yourself -- if you have a Nexus 7, that is, and don't mind losing everything on it.
Why would you want to do this?
If you're an Ubuntu, Android or gadget enthusiast who wants a hands-on preview of a new kind of tablet and isn't afraid to get those hands dirty. Alternately, if you're an app or web developer who wants an early preview of how your apps or websites will look on Ubuntu.
shows some of the ideas that Canonical -- the startup which guides much of Ubuntu's development -- is putting into this, such as its swiping gestures which take the place of Android's home button and app switcher. This gives it a cleaner, less cluttered feel than most other tablets.
Joey-Elijah Sneddon of enthusiast blog OMG! Ubuntu!that "Installing Ubuntu Touch will wipe all ... data on your [Nexus 7], as well as the Android OS on it." In other words, it doesn't work like installing Ubuntu on your PC, where it's been streamlined to the point that a nontechnical user could try it and it shouldn't damage your system. Not only will you have to use advanced Android tools to install Ubuntu to begin with, if you decide that you don't like it, you'll have to re-download the original firmware and all of your apps, and restore a backup of your personal data.
You get what you pay for?
Another post by Sneddon explains thatin the Nexus 7 version of Ubuntu. Basic features like the camera and 3G wireless internet, as well as video and audio playback, simply don't work, and the screen is locked into portrait mode. Besides that, there are only a half-dozen or so apps, many of which are populated with "dummy data" for demonstration purposes; most of the icons shown off in screenshots are just links to websites right now.
Only the beginning
Canonical representatives will be speaking with potential hardware partners at Mobile World Congress, trying to find smartphone and tablet manufacturers interested in making Ubuntu devices. The software is open-source, like Android is, and they don't need permission to use it. But partnering with Canonical would entitle manufacturers to put the Ubuntu One "personal cloud" and Ubuntu Software Center -- its versions of iCloud and the App Store, respectively -- on their devices.
Given the "open web" nonprofit Mozilla's recent hardware partnerships as well, the local electronics store just might become a lot more diverse soon.
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.