The code is initially being released as a file for Samsung Galaxy Nexus handsets, and Ubuntu's founder is apparently in talks with manufacturers for devices to be sold with the system pre-installed. Ubuntu-powered phones are expected to arrive in 2013.
It is unlikely that Ubuntu will gain any significant traction in the consumer market, as it's doubtful whether people want to run a full computer operating system on mobile handsets.
Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu's founder acknowledged to the BBC that the device would be limited to "enthusiasts and hobbyists at first", but claimed that it signalled a wider shift on the horizon. "It's quite incredible that we're at this point when the power of the phone is crossing over that with baseline processing power of basic laptops," said Shuttleworth.
"We're taking advantage of that so for the first time in history you have the full consumer PC platform available on a phone.
"I'm very confident if we look ahead over the next three to five years that's a transition that Apple is going to have to make... and if it's not Windows 9 it will be Windows 10 that will see Microsoft bring its phone and laptop together into one device. It's really cracking to do that ahead of everyone else."