Feeds

Rarin' to buy an Ubuntu phone? Maybe not until 2015, Canonical man says

'Long road' ahead before they'll be sold in carriers' stores

Reducing security risks from open source software

Commercial smartphones running the mobile version of the Ubuntu Linux distro probably won't be available through carriers until 2015 at the earliest, a Canonical spokesman has revealed.

When Canonical CEO Jane Silber first announced plans to port Ubuntu to phones last year, she said the goal was to ship the first handsets with the OS preloaded by the end of 2013.

That didn't happen, and from the sound of it, Ubuntu fans probably shouldn't hold their breath for a dedicated Ubuntu phone this year, either. Even if one does appear, it will likely be a limited-run device targeting niche use cases.

"Longer-term we would love to see the major OEM/Carriers shipping Ubuntu handsets," Ubuntu community manager Jono Bacon wrote in a recent Reddit AMA session. "This is a long road though with many components, and I would be surprised if we see anything like this before 2015."

Bacon said he expects the first Ubuntu handsets will be built by smaller OEMs who serve smaller regions, and that if these sell well, larger OEMs and carriers may follow suit.

But don't expect Canonical to kick-start the process by developing its own Ubuntu handset. After the failure of last year's attempt to crowd-fund the Ubuntu Edge, a high-end hybrid device that would have functioned as both a phone and a PC, any further such plans have been effectively shelved.

"I am supportive of this," Bacon wrote. "I think it would tie Canonical up in knots delivering a very specific device rather than focusing our efforts on making Ubuntu work well for other OEMs who can ship it."

This means that for the foreseeable future, the only way to run Ubuntu on your phone will be to use Canonical's installer to install it onto one of the handful of supported Android devices – namely, Google's Nexus-branded kit.

There's yet another catch here, though. In a post to the Ubuntu Phone mailing list on Monday, Canonical developer Alexander Sack said that the Ubuntu Engineering team planned to discontinue development on several of the current Nexus devices and that it would not port the OS to the latest, the Nexus 5.

"We decided against moving to the latest Nexus phone, because the switching costs were simply too high taking our current engineering goals/agenda/needs for [Ubuntu] 14.04 into account," Sack wrote.

The Galaxy Nexus, the original Nexus 7, and the Nexus 10 are also being retired as engineering platforms, he said, which will leave the Nexus 4 and the 2013 version of the Nexus 7 as the only mobile devices for which Ubuntu is being actively developed – provided, of course, no one steps in to take over the other ports.

None of this sounds particularly promising for Ubuntu's chances of finding its way into many users' pockets soon. By comparison, the Mozilla Foundation, which announced its web standards–based Firefox OS for smartphones around the same time that Canonical first started murmuring about mobile, has already managed to launch Firefox OS phones from multiple manufacturers in several global markets via divisions of Deutsche Telekom and Telefónica.

Mobile Ubuntu's apparent struggles haven't dimmed Bacon's enthusiasm for the project, however. "I would not want to suggest that any given year is the year of the Linux desktop (who would? :-)), but I think 2014 is going to be a defining year for Ubuntu and our convergence strategy," he wrote. As for what that means, exactly, the rest of us will just have to wait and see. ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
Report: American tech firms charge Britons a thumping nationality tax
Without representation, too. Time for a Boston (Lincs) Macbook Party?
Child diagnosed as allergic to iPad
Apple's fondleslab is the tablet dermatitis sufferers won't want to take
Microsoft takes on Chromebook with low-cost Windows laptops
Redmond's chief salesman: We're taking 'hard' decisions
For Lenovo US, 8-inch Windows tablets are DEAD – long live 8-inch Windows tablets
Reports it's killing off smaller slabs are greatly exaggerated
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Seventh-gen SPARC silicon will accelerate Oracle databases
Uncle Larry's mutually-optimised stack to become clearer in August
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.