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Canonical unveils Carrier Advisory Group for Ubuntu phones

Eight possible launch partners already signed on

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Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux distribution, has announced the formation of a Carrier Advisory Group (CAG) to help advocate for the open source OS as a smartphone platform.

Ubuntu developers have been hard at work in recent months, with the goal of transforming the OS from a desktop Linux distro to a multi-device platform for use on everything from PCs and laptops to phones, tablets, and smart TVs.

Progress so far has been slow – Ubuntu phones only gained cellular data access a couple of weeks ago, and their features remain minimal – but Canonical has promised to get the first production Ubuntu handsets into customers' hands in 2014.

To that end, the CAG will hold regular meetings to discuss such issues as device differentiation, HTML5 standards, marketplaces for apps and content, revenue-share models, payment systems, platform fragmentation, and market segments and positioning, Canonical said in a statement on Tuesday.

"While Ubuntu has gained tremendous traction in both cloud and PC environments, we recognise the complex dynamics of the mobile market," said Ubuntu main man Mark Shuttleworth, "and so the CAG allows us to draw on the insights and support of such a thoughtful and experienced group of industry partners."

The partners gain something from participating in the CAG, too. CAG members will get exclusive early access to information about Ubuntu development and device manufacturer plans, and only CAG members will be eligible to participate as launch partners when the final version of Ubuntu for smartphones ships.

The carriers that have signed on so far include Deutsche Telekom, Everything Everywhere, Korea Telecom, LG UPlus, Portugal Telecom, SK Telecom, Telecom Italia, and – curiously enough – "the leading Spanish international carrier."

Why Canonical has not named that last member isn't clear, but it seems logical for it to be Telefónica, which has also been working with Mozilla to launch Firefox OS phones in Latin America. The Spanish telecom giant is widely rumored to be a takeover target, however – could that have anything to do with the Spanish CAG anonymity?

Notably absent from the list are the major US carriers – with the possible exception of Deutsche Telekom, which operates fourth-ranked US carrier T-Mobile, among various other properties worldwide.

Canonical says it has extended invitations to join the CAG to "any national or multinational carrier who wishes to join." Carriers that are toying with the idea of offering Ubuntu phones should act quickly, however. Canonical says it plans to close the CAG to new members by the end of July. ®

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