MJ Technology envisions a 64-bit, x86-compatible tablet that can run Ubuntu and other open source Linux-based operating systems. Could it work?
Want an x86 tablet that can run GNU/Linux? If a new crowd-funding campaign succeeds, it could be yours.
MJ Technology has launched an Indiegogo fundraising campaign to develop what it says will be the "world's [sic] first true made for Linux/Ubuntu x86/x64 tablet." In non-geek terms, that means a tablet that comes with a 64-bit x86 processor -- the same type used in most desktop and laptop computers -- rather than an ARM chip, the architecture common in tablets and other mobile devices.
The architecture difference is important because most GNU/Linux distributions and apps that are designed for traditional PCs can't run on ARM hardware. (Well, you can port or recompile them for ARM, but that's messy and the support is often not as good; practically speaking, ARM remains a second-class citizen in the GNU/Linux world.)
Although MJ Technology's tagline mentions Ubuntu Linux specifically, the company says its goal is to provide a hardware platform that can support any type of GNU/Linux distribution.
If You've Heard this Story Before...
If this all sounds familiar, it's because it is in some ways. MJ Technologies is not the first company to propose a tablet that supports Ubuntu. Canonical has already unveiled a tablet that can run Ubuntu. But that device has an ARM chip, so it only supports the mobile version of Ubuntu, not all Linux-based operating systems.
Meanwhile, some other outfits have attempted Linux-based tablets over the years. The abortive UT One project was one attempt to build an x86 tablet that runs Ubuntu. And Zareason, which specializes in computers with open source operating systems preinstalled, has offered the Linux-friendly ZaTab tablet -- although it's also ARM-based, and it's currently not available.
So the MJ Technology tablet is not really a new idea. But if it actually succeeds in unveiling a prototype of an x86 tablet that can run Ubuntu, that will be original.
At the time of writing the crowd-funding campaign has $199,467 to go in order to reach its $200,000 funding goal -- so it looks like the project will be fighting an uphill battle. But so did the free and open source software movement when it was born three decades ago. In this space, you never know what's going to succeed despite all expectations to the contrary.