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Canonical reckons Android phone-makers will switch to Ubuntu

Desktop Linux to spring Google's OEM prisoner partners

Canonical is courting Google’s Android partners in the hope they'll break ranks with the Chocolate Factory and deliver devices powered by Ubuntu.

The Linux shop has received commitments from Android smartphone and tablet makers to ship devices using its Linux with devices “later this year.”

Chief executive Jane Silber told The Register: “We are talking to them [Android OEM partners] regularly and many will be shipping Ubuntu phones. There’s a lot of interest from these folks in supporting another platform.”

The company announced the Ubuntu variant of BQ’s M10 Aquarius tablet last week. BQ, an Ubuntu partner of two years, also ships M10 on Android. BQ was already selling two handsets running Ubuntu.

Canonical is also partnering with Android partner Meizu, which is shipping the MX4.

Ramping up the Ubuntu Mobile push comes at a tough time: Android and Apple hold such sway that they’ve succeeded in seeing off two challengers. Microsoft’s Windows mobile phone strategy is withering, with the Nokia business it bought having been demoted and Microsoft's definition of mobile having now become Surface. Windows Mobile has roundly failed to break the once-anticipated five-per-cent market share figure.

Mozilla said last week it’s stopping production of Firefox OS for smartphones, having had enough of trying to play catch up despite having had the muscle of Telefonica to help push it. Firefox OS was a Linux-based operating system that ran HTML5. Firefox OS will now go on “things” – starting with UHD TVs from Panasonic.

Twelve months into its own effort, Ubuntu’s own phones wouldn’t even count as an error on worldwide shipments. Yet Silber is undaunted.

“There was no compelling reason for people to buy a Firefox phone,” Silber told The Register. “We are offering a different vision, further into convergence.”

By convergence, Silber is referring to the ability to take your Ubuntu phone or tablet, running web-based apps, and plug it into a monitor and to run it like a desktop PC.

“We are trying to solve the problem of what does personal computing look like in the future,” Silber said.

According to Silber, Ubuntu can repeat the success on mobile that it has managed to establish on PCs – albeit 30 million rather than 200 million. She believes Google’s partners are wary or the giant’s control of the Android operating system and efforts to push its own devices, competing with them.

She would not say which of Google’s partners, currently making and selling Android phones and tablets, that Canonical has talked to, or which of those will embrace Ubuntu. However, Samsung – the biggest single beneficiary of Android on smartphones since the Galaxy – has made repeated noises about need for an alternative.

To date, Samsung has backed Tizen, which started as LiMo and received Intel’s backing in 2011 when the project was given the Tizen rebrand.

Silber is also dismissive of the suggestion Canonical and Ubuntu haven’t exactly triumphed in their various efforts to flip Mac or Windows loyalists. The goal in 2011 was for 200 million Ubuntu users by the end of that year – but today that figure, according to Canonical, is just 30 million desktops.

Ubuntu has had greater traction on the server and in the cloud: Canonical claims Ubuntu runs 70 per cent of Docker images on AWS and 80 per cent of OpenStack. This time, Ubuntu mobile has advances in mobility, prevalence of the web and web-based apps on its side.

“It changes your view of personal computing and what you need to carry around with you,” Silber said. According to her, interest will come from "the enterprise."

“Five years ago people said, why do you need another Linux distro?" ®

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