Ubuntu

The Ubuntu Phone is official: Let the madness begin!

Jack Wallen responds to the Canonical announcement for the upcoming Ubuntu Phone. Are you fan enough to read on?

 

Ubuntu phone
 

Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth recently held a press conference for a major announcement regarding the companies that will soon be in the insanely competitive smartphone market.

Up until now, the only way to test a Ubuntu Phone is to have the right hardware (typically a Nexus device), plenty of time, and access to a charger (as the developer devices had horrendous battery life). Late 2014 will see all of that change, as Canonical announced that two major global players in the smartphone hardware business have stepped up to the plate to partner with Canonical to produce the first consumer-grade Ubuntu Phones.

The partners are BQ and Meizu.

You’re probably thinking “Big deal! It’s only two companies.” Yes, but when you realize that Meizu is a giant in China and creates some amazing devices (such as the MX2) and BQ is the manufacturer of the extensive Aquarius line of smartphones, then you know that there just might be something to this announcement.

Most everyone with their fingers on the pulse of the mobile industry knew the Ubuntu Phone would eventually come to fruition. Many were (and are) certain the device could very easily cause a major stir in the pot currently dominated by iOS and Android.

Think about it -- both Android and iOS have a serious stranglehold on the market, one that few will ever have a chance to break. But along comes an open source company, one mostly known for a Linux desktop, and heads are slowly starting to turn.

Why?

Canonical has done this the right way. By adopting Unity early on, Canonical has managed to get the user interface out into the wild. This means the Ubuntu Phone won’t have nearly as many users wondering how to manage the new mobile UI. Another intelligent move on Canonical’s part was their plan for one code base to rule them all. Even now, the Ubuntu Phone shares 90% of the same code as the Ubuntu desktop. By release date, that number will be 100%. That’s right -- the code for the Ubuntu desktop, the tablet, and the phone will be 100% the same. How do they do this? HTML5. Canonical will be using the same code strategy as Google -- Apache Cordova (a cross-platform mobile development platform). According to Shuttleworth, “Anything that works on Android or iOS should work on Ubuntu.”

That might be the best news yet. By adopting HTML5, the Ubuntu Phone shouldn’t suffer the same plight that haunted the Windows 8 Phone -- a ghost town of an app store upon introduction. When the Ubuntu Phone launches, Shuttleworth said the top 50 apps from both the Apple and Android app stores should be available.

No, Ubuntu Phone users won’t find apps like XBill and XSnow filling the app store. Instead, they’ll be treated to the likes of Grooveshark, Weather Channel, Twitter, and a host of other third-party apps.

Sounds to me like Canonical has a plan -- one that could mean almost immediate success for the Ubuntu Phone. That doesn’t, of course, mean the Ubuntu Phone is going to join iOS and Android for a picnic in the park. Bringing a new platform into the mobile-sphere is going to be an almost insurmountable journey. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), Ubuntu (and Linux in general) is accustomed to scratching and clawing its way to the top of the heap. To me, that translates to the Ubuntu Phone being in this for the long haul. Even if the Ubuntu Phone doesn’t come out a raging hit, Canonical will keep plugging away until it is.

My prediction, however, is that the Ubuntu Phone will be a huge hit -- even if only for the devoted Linux fans across the planet. And they are devoted. The Linux community has been clamoring for their own mobile device for years. Linux die-hards will be tossing their current carriers and phones like Windows installer disks to finally see their wish come to fruition. Those same users will be more than happy to make word of mouth Canonical’s best friend.

Passion is on the side of Canonical. A large cross-section of people desperately want this device. If you’ve ever questioned the rabid relationship consumers have with their phones, hang out at a carrier store for a while and chat with one of the employees. Now, imagine one of those stores filled with long-time Linux users about to have their first taste of the open-source platform on an official mobile device.

We’re talking cats and dogs living together levels of madness! And now, by the end of 2014 (as I predicted at the beginning of the year), those fanboys and fangirls will get their wish.

What do you think? How can a brand new contender manage to hold its own in a market dominated by two power houses? And what challenges should Canonical and the Ubuntu Phone expect along the way?

 

 

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

80 comments
m.t.henderson21
m.t.henderson21

Okay so we know the Ubuntu phone will be released son and most likey in favor for the folks in the UK. However is it possible to get hands on a device in the US in the meantime? I mean an actual Ubuntu device? not a nexus with the Ubuntu OS. ARE THEE ANY TESTERS OUT THERE??? WHERE DO I SIGN UP??

neobengoa
neobengoa

Upgrade eligible next March, I have been waiting so long for this.

;3; lol

iranzov
iranzov

I can't wait to have one of these BQ's phones with Ubuntu.

Later I may look for the blackphone.

Ndiaz.fuentes
Ndiaz.fuentes

This looks pretty sweet. I'll probably be trying one of these out when they release.

Amol A. Girgaonkar
Amol A. Girgaonkar

I think Smart Phone and Tablet Manufactring Companies start to give hardware only so that the user of device can choose which OS they want to use like in computer.

Andredup
Andredup

I am a keen user of Ubuntu (not in the daily work environment) and the advantage of co-installed on a laptop/desktop with Windows provided the opportunity to make comparisons between OS's and general application availability. will Ubuntu Phone have the option of installing Ubuntu on my Samsung and co-exist with Android?

programit
programit

Does this mean that canonical now logs, tracks, and sells your texting, voice and other mobile data so companies like amazon, and who knows who else, can either bombard you with advertising and track your every move, search request, and data?

Like the way Ubuntu has gone.

LorinRicker
LorinRicker

The next big disruptor in the smart/cellphone space is likely to be Blackphone (see http://www.blackphone.ch/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackphone), where some bright and responsible folks, including PGP creator Phil Zimmerman, insist that our phone data, phone communications (conversations, email, messages) and other transactions should be our own -- private and secure, and therefore totally internally and end-to-end encrypted. They've actually designed and produced the device which does this, although the current unit list price is likely too expensive (yet) for mass adoption.


Blackphone is the first device to provide nearly complete encryption -- perhaps not totally NSA-unbreakable, but hey, what'll they do when *everyone's phone and conversations* are encrypted?


Is Canonical/Ubuntu/Shuttleworth up-to-speed on this? Or is this another dimension of global communications that they, like the other big players, are going to play catch-up on, or worse, continue to ignore? Much as I'd like to adore a Ubuntu/Linux phone (and would, if privacy/security were built-in), now that Blackphone is redefining what's possible in privacy/security, this bubbles to the top of the purchase decision evaluation list.


"Where I am" and "what I'm doing now" and "who I'm talking to" are my own damn business -- I fully resent a global business model that is dedicated to poaching on my life and activities.


The cellphone business is changing and evolving with respect to subscription plans, pricing and customer commitments -- I think that the device manufacturers and carriers who finally wise up to protect the customer (over the app providers and their own corporate interests) will ultimately be the big disruptors and big winners. The current crop of app developers/businesses will be the big losers, especially if they don't revise and transform their parasitic business models.


If the issues of privacy/security remain unaddressed by the Ubuntu/Linux phone, it'll be just another ho-hum, me-too platform in a crowed UI-phone marketplace.  On the other hand, if the Ubuntu phone follows the bold lead of Blackphone and provides full encryption... and builds on the philosophy of customer-first rather than customer-as-prey... then it *could* become the next-gen killer device in this market.

texadactyl
texadactyl

A phone powered by a GNU/Linux system is attractive to many open h/w and s/w folks.  I for one would love to be shod of the distracting Android advertising.  

However, the enthusiasm should be tempered.  The mobile industry, like all others, is fueled entirely by profit.  What carrier will have any interest in a GNU/Linux phone when Android and iOS phones efficiently fit the current operational mold?  Why should they invest in something that will be used by less than 1% of their customers?  For a consumer to use a mobile phone, one needs support just to install/interface it to the carrier's network.  How about post-installation support when something goes wrong - carrier or device-maker takes the lead?

For a computer, I will always be a GNU/Linux user or a BSD user.  For a phone that I rely on for all my text and voice communications, I might be gun-shy.  Maybe version 2 if I can find a carrier with adequate support.

jimanders50
jimanders50

I'm kind of new to the Linux universe, but my new Dell shipped with Ubuntu. Now I'm wondering why I didn't switch to this OS years ago. It is quick, stable, and easy to use. There are plenty of applications out there to cover whatever I need. I will be looking forward to the new phone to replace my Android.

joseph.r.piazza
joseph.r.piazza

I think Jack is again writing overly enthusiastic about Canonical and Ubuntu coming to mobile phones.  I agree with another commenter, why should I care.  Linux is still a minority holder in Desktop OS and and may never become a major OS since most individuals are not IT specialist. Google beat Canonical to the finished line and provided a free or almost free OS on a mobile phone.  As someone stated unless a major carrier, carries the devices and gives them away "free" or what we believe is free in USA, I doubt it will catch on.  Maybe 20% of the market at best.




davist@childrensfactory.
davist@childrensfactory.

I am so in.  I have been waiting for a linux phone and have said for years that they  had the potential to really change things making your pocket computer your only computer.  If this thing can do wireless hdmi imagine the possibilities. Sit at your desk throw your phone into a charging dock connect it to a monitor and input source and your PC goes everywhere you do.  One device to rule them all.


I lived the last 16 months without a phone just because I was tired of the same old same old and lived only with a laptop and Google voice/Google Chat plugin from Gmail.  This makes me excited about phones again.

mcs
mcs

If Canonical can add one feature. Upgradability of Phone OS to latest OS version automatically / manually so that my OS is always latest without switching hardware. This will attract LOTs of USers. Also, make it easy(Preferably automatic) to take backup of all my personal data (Contacts / SMSes,/Photos/Videos) to predefined directories on my LAptop / PC / Cloud Storage of my choice. 


Add these and your phone OS is likely to be very very popular.

Shadetree Engineer
Shadetree Engineer

You can bet the NSA is a member of Ubuntu's 'Carrier Advisory Group', if it isn't the chairman himself who reports back to the NSA!

adornoe
adornoe

Ubuntu might be open source, and there is "huge" following for things that are "free".  So, give me a smartphone that is "free", and I'll jump at the opportunity to join the Ubuntu followers, and I might even join the "free religion" and become a Linux fanatic.


Say what?!?!


Say what?!?!  The Ubuntu phone isn't free?  It's hardware, and not software?  


Yep!  Ubuntu will get the fanatics of "free" to join the Linux bandwagon, but, when it comes to the phone hardware, if it's not "free" too, then, there will be resistance by those already in the iOS and Android and WP ecosystems, and thus, the Ubuntu phones will go virtually unnoticed.  


In order to get more people to go along with the mobile Ubuntu, the phone itself will have to be free, and so will the mandatory cell service plans.  


Ubuntu could have a very nice competing device on their hands, but, if the whole thing isn't free, only the Linus/Ubuntu fans will go for the scheme. 


BTW, the above article sounds like the material one would expect to read in a marketing brochure for a product.  Ubuntu phones are the product, and the material in the blog above could only have been written by a Linux/Ubuntu proponent or follower. 

nadielp
nadielp

I have been excited about this for a while now and can't wait to actually be able to get an Ubuntu phone. It is so easy to be cynical about this but I think it could be a great opportunity.

padapa
padapa

I think their "failed" crowd sourcing on Kickstarter showed how much support could be brewing.  I would certainly switch, and now that they have announced it, I will look seriously at moving my iOS and HTML5 app dev time to Ubuntu.  It would be a fresh start at a new market.

Once the platform is stable, the final question is if it could be ported onto a slew of Android handsets.  I think Samsung will be putting a poison pill into their code real soon.

PhilippeV
PhilippeV

Let's hope that Canonical will do things right and will not develop a new proprietary platform like Apple and Google.

And will Ubuntu develop installable firmwares that will run on existing smartphones for various brands (including Samsung) to get rid of lack of long-term support of Android on their sold devices ?


The other trick that manufacturers use now, after Apple started doing it, is also to have non-replaceable batteries (or only by a very costly procedure where it is in fact best to just drop recycle phone for a new one. 

May be Canonical will do the same (and will reserve its Ubuntu Phone firmware only to new phones made by "partner" manufacturer under licence, that will continue to use these commercial tricks on their sold devices...)


neurosensei
neurosensei

If Canonical plays this right then they will get a huge market share.  Why?  I mean android or iOS are the kings.  I mean android has over 60% market share in developing countries.  Look at latin america http://www.latinpost.com/articles/7683/20140221/ios-vs-android-windows-phone-market-share-latin-america-mexico-salvador.htm


Now apple is too expensive thus whole regions just out of reach.  Also, the walled garden for apps limits competition.

But here is the problem.  Do you realize your android phone is not really open source.  Yes the core is and anyone can use it but then why do manufacturers pay google typically 75 cents per device or microsoft android revenue is more than their xbox and mobile revenues combined?

http://www.businessinsider.com/how-google-controls-androids-open-source-software-2014-1

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jan/23/how-google-controls-androids-open-source

http://bgr.com/2013/04/24/microsoft-zte-android-licensing-agreement-462609/

 

Also, that amazon kindles use a fork of android that is slightly incompatible  with the others?  

 This all creates a perfect storm for a mass exodus of manufacturers from android and this market opportunity for the non-premium phone market.


If ubuntu can do this right with tools for ease of development, crating a reliable app market but not preventing other markets from existing(ala apple and google).  Plus the wild card. NSA  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/02/24/speculation-emerges-apple-security-flaw-may-be-tied-to-nsa-spying/


These are things to think about but don't discount ubuntu phone.

Terenas911
Terenas911

That’s right -- the code for the Ubuntu desktop, the tablet, and the phone will be 100% the same. How do they do this? HTML5.


No, no, no. This is absolutely false. The glue that will hold together the different form-factors and the 'one code base' is actually Qt NOT HTML5. Seriously, the switch of Ubuntu desktop to Qt is the major move that will make the convergent desktop possible. How do you not know this?

mynard
mynard

Where do I pre-order? I will buy my entire household one of these each.

MOBILEOSOFTHEYEAR
MOBILEOSOFTHEYEAR

LMAO....HMMMM...Where is all the skeptical criticism that came with the announcement of WP8...boy oh boy...what a bunch of self exposing hypothetical haters...I'll be holding my breath to see if this sticks around....

Jim Johnson
Jim Johnson

Umm - carriers?

Unlike Wi-Fi, cellular data is pretty carrier specific. Who is going to support these newcomers to the party?

drwalter
drwalter

Great News!!!  It is good to know there is another option for those of us that strive for more freedom and an open world, away from manipulation and unwanted control. I will switch as soon as I get my hands on it!


novosirj
novosirj

I'm not sure I want this, even though I am a fan of Ubuntu and run it on my laptop, etc. Some apps are just not going to appear (Netflix for example; the odds are very low). I'm just tired of not being able to run what I want to on what is largely a consumer device at this point.

Zudjiian
Zudjiian

I think the real question is why should anyone care? Maybe I am missing something here.....

The major reasons people use Ubuntu and/or Linux is because....its free, its faster; particularly from a command line, and its virus free.

But this isn't a DESKTOP its a SmartPhone 

Well Smartphones aren't free

Faster speeds aren't going to be an issue here because these aren't full fledged O.S.'s there against. 

As of yet iOS is also virus free, or monitored so severely its not an issue (as of yet :))

What's there marketing strategy? Apple's is easy of use, Android is everything is available, and Windows is running on its name alone. This seems ill thought out, other than the niche market users, who is going to buy this phone?

This seems like when the Windows phones came out, some people changed but not many cared.

So I ask, "why should anyone care about Ubuntu joining the market?"

Cause from this side of the pond, who cares.

Try and keep the Flaming to a min.

walataza
walataza

Just like the windows phone, IOS, Android, The Ubuntu Phone is official. What does this bring to the plate of Mobile Enthusiasts? For me i think if Ubuntu's approach gear towards eliminating the PC, then they can win the market to a very great extent. Look for what isnt available in other mobile OS and then implement. Blue Ocean strategy is the key here.

jpyziak
jpyziak

Definitely Something to Watch BUT NOT Ignore!!!

sonicsteve
sonicsteve

Android is very good, very diverse and has thousands of Apps. Really there is an app for almost any need. It has a few downfalls, updates and privacy. 

Ubuntu has a chance if it can satisfy the app market needs that most people have. I like that it is truely open source and should be very hackable. The hackability is exactly what what manufacturers and app developers don't like though. 

I'm going to say this, without support of Netflix, Kindle, and other apps like those it will be hard to break into Europe and North America. I plan to install it to keep an eye on it, I'm rooting for it, but doubtful.

alex
alex

Great concept, the secret will be in the implementation. Using HTML/5 has been promised many times, but it's still not as smooth as a native app. If there's a single differentiator that could help it succeed it would be security. it needs to be as easy to use as iOS and at least as secure, if not more so. Assuming it can be as loose as Android and won't come under attack, is like believing in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, and that the NSA won't demand a back door.

jschmidt
jschmidt

Finally a device that will allow the people to have a chance to come out from under the thumb of the illegal NSA spying.  I will definitely be buying this.

authorwjf
authorwjf

I'm excited about Ubuntu coming to the smartphone market, though skeptical about the statement the top 50 apps will be available on launch.  With the exception of Linked In how many of the top 50 apps on iOS or Android are currently really HTML 5?  Native apps still rule the mobile store front and while players like Twitter have an HTML 5 version of their site online, it is not the same experience users are treated to when they download the native app.  This could change in the future, and I hope it does-but I think Shuttleworth's statement is a bit misleading.  My hope is that Ubuntu phone gains enough of a following to push app developers over to HTML 5--but as a developer I still have a bad taste in my mouth from when PALM, HP, ADOBE, and even RIM at one point all promised the same.

nrdesousa
nrdesousa

I can't wait. I'm a big fan of Chinese phones. It's a shame not many in Australia are aware of them. Here's hoping many more of the good manufacturers join the Ubuntu club

james.vandamme
james.vandamme

@joseph.r.piazza The secret is to install an OS on a device that's designed for it, and few users will ever change it. That's the only reason people are stuck with Windows on desktops: it's difficult to get Linux instead. On phones and tablets, guess what: people have a choice.

3arn0wl
3arn0wl

@joseph.r.piazza You might be surprised! The US Government, French Gendarms, China Government approval and, since XP's no longer being supported, the German Government handing out copies of Ubuntu at railway stations, heck even the British Government have been murmuring about Open Source recently: Ubuntu use is predicted to be up 11%.  It's a myth that Linux is for geeks and coders! 

I can't see why carriers wouldn't offer Ubuntu phones to customers on exactly the same terms as phones with any other OS.  From there it's down to customer choice.

Jestinu
Jestinu

@adornoe have you heard of "humble Indy bundle"? the people of the "free" world constantly donate the most. it seems the linux followers pay for stuff as they see fit. 


as far as the phone goes, it is the most advanced phone to be on the market, as of now in a few categories, why would you think that the hardware would be free? even the desktop version of Ubuntu the hardware isn't free.

leave it to a PC to always want something for nothing!
PhilippeV
PhilippeV

I bet that Samsung will adopt it (without abandonning the Android market), simply because Samsung does not like its dependancy with Google.


Let's remember that Google started Android from zero. It was not a so long time ago.


The world cannot live with just two major competitors (and Windows Phone will likely fail soon, Nokia is in severe trouble, Microsoft cannot use Android or iOS as a key platform, but may be this time it could adopt Ubuntu Phone, if this platform can support the DotNet CLR and then integrate DotNet and Qt within a common single VM, that could also support Python, Javascript, Lua, possibly even Java/Dalvik as emulated VMs...)


So wellcome to the third player (it could become very soon very big in China, Samsung will not loose that market and will run in the new playground).

PhilippeV
PhilippeV

@Terenas911  True, and Qt was initially a Nokia-supported project (now under control of Digia; still in Norway) for supporting fast interactive contents on its own smartphones.


Nokia went into troubles, but Qt is still challenged as a cross-platform format by other competitors:

* HTML5 is one of them (but it's unfinished and the very long process exhibits lots of incompatibility quirks

* Flash+ActiveScript was one of them but Adobe, after buying Macromedia, decided to resign in favor of HTML5+CSS3+Javascript standards

* Google wants to build its own format and has started by working on improving Javascript, then HTTP itself, and it is ready to dump Javascript for a new language

* Microsoft still promotes DotNet and the integration of native Win32 APIs into DotNet; Microsoft then changed its mind with Windows 8 to support new web apps instead, based on HTML5

* Microsoft broke the standard of Java years ago, and Oracle made things even worse when it bought Sun.


There are other good competitors for scripting languages: Python and Lua,

* Lua is very promising but still lacks a VM that supports compiilation from the intermediate binary code to native code, so its performances are not extremely good compared to Javascript and Python.


Qt is not so portable as we think.


For now the only system promoted under the HTML5/Javascript/CSS umbrella works on top of a single rectangular element, where applications build their layout entirely themselves (I do not call this a useful framework for building apps); with various intergration problems with some renderings (such as WebGL, but Qt also has the same problem!)


The world is still waiting for a universal VM that will support all these scripting language


(And also without the extremely tricky complications of CSS which is still unable to describe a simple UI layout like what X11-Motif was already doing simply about 30 years ago, and fails to correctly describe what is needed for scripts traditionnally written vertically)


For now there's still no common integration framework that allows excellent integration of code (written portably but recompiled automatically and running at native performance with automatic tuning on the underlying deployment platfprm), data, and UI, as well as agility of deployment (independant of where the application code may be running, or the UI may rendered; locally or remotely on demand, on one or many CPU/GPU/APU processors or multiple hosts in a network grid, with builtin massive parallelism and rendez-vous synchronisation and full asynchronism support for performance and transparent redeployment based on measured charges; performances or availability).


MOBILEOSOFTHEYEAR
MOBILEOSOFTHEYEAR

@novosirj REALLY!!!

Tell me what you want to run on a phone which, would allow one to experience total freedom and phone EUTOPIA....LMAO..

jfrost001
jfrost001

@Zudjiian  


One word.... CONVERGENCE!


You have to couple the OS with a desktop level device.  The next gen of phones are going to be every bit as powerful as the laptop/desktops.   We already are running quad core that run in excess of 2Ghz with 2+GB of RAM.  With USB and the cloud persistent storage is not an issue.


I want a device that is smart about how it is being used.  It's in my pocket all alone it's a phone with a 5 inch screen and it presents an appropriate UI.   I dock the phone with a tablet like the ASUS unit and bingo it knows that there's a bigger screen and again adjusts for more real estate but still primarily touch driven.  Dock the phone at my desk with a 27" monitor, keyboard and rat  and I'm running full Linux. 


Windows is also closing on this but I don't want to pay for a restricted eco-system.  I'm a programmer and switched from Windows to Linux about 10 years ago and I've never looked back.  A unified powerful, portable Linux coomunication/computing device would would be outstanding.  

mbbs
mbbs

@PhilippeV  

Microsoft is using Android, via Nokia they just released some android based phones, with the GUI adapted to look like Windows 8

3arn0wl
3arn0wl

@PhilippeV Won't Samsung go with Tizen?  They've just put it on their smart-watch...

PhilippeV
PhilippeV

Let's imagine a dream: Microsoft adopting it along with Nokia, Yahoo, Samsung...

The third player against Apple and Google will be born, and Windows will no longer be a problem for Linux fans.


However the main problem for Microsoft is still the GPL that it does not like at all... Microsoft could change its stategy: propriatery licences on softwares (and their damned patents) are probably a thing of the past, when the world will now use and sell licences on web services and contents, i.e. on real creation by real authors !