Canonical has launched a new version of its Ubuntu operating system designed with smartphones and tablets in mind. Available as a developer preview ahead of a full release sometime early next year, the software is available to download right now and is compatible with a handful of different Nexus products: the Nexus 4 ("mako"), Nexus 7 ("grouper"), Nexus 10 ("manta") and GSM variants of the Galaxy Nexus ("maguro").

Besides limited device compatibility there is not much you can do with the software at this point. Canonical says that the shell and basic apps like browser, contacts, gallery, camera, and notes will work and users should be able to connect their device to the Android Developer Bridge tool. Wi-Fi support is also present, while Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4 users can connect to GSM networks to make phone calls and send SMS messages.

The new operating system claims to offer real multitasking with a Windows 8-esque side view option that lets you have two apps open and on-screen at the same time. It also supports multiple accounts with full encryption for personal data, built-in voice searching, and a number of gestures to navigate the OS.

Ubuntu for phones and tablets will run the full desktop operating system, meaning developers can create a single app for both the desktop and smartphone, while this also allows a device to become a full PC when docked with a monitor, mouse, and keyboard. Canonical says the main purpose of this early release is to lure in developers and get them to contribute to the project.

Those interested can head on over to the Ubuntu wiki for full instructions on how to install the Touch Developer Preview. If you want to try Ubuntu without wiping Android from your device dual booting is also an option.