Home opinion-and-analysis The Linux Distillery Is that all, Mark Shuttleworth? An Ubuntu Phone concept with no device? Next!

Is that all, Mark Shuttleworth? An Ubuntu Phone concept with no device? Next!

For two days — egad, all this year — Canonical Inc teased the world with a message on the Ubuntu website announcing something was so close you could almost touch it.

Like many, I saw this as pointing to an Ubuntu tablet and eventually to an Ubuntu Phone.

An Ubuntu-powered mobile device would stand apart from the current rich field of Android devices in offering greater flexibility. As tremendous as Android is, the difference between Android and Ubuntu is akin to the difference between Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Windows Phone or the difference between MacOS and iOS. In fairness, Android offers greater customisation than Windows Phone and iOS but the point is a desktop operating system provides far greater power.

I hold a vision for a future converged "do it all" device permitting power users to carry their computer in their pocket. Use it as a phone; dock it and use it as a computer. Your files and productivity apps are onboard. Write code, run web servers, penetration test a network from the command-line; you name it, if it can be done on a desktop PC your phone can do it too.

That's why the now-dead Motorola Atrix was so exciting when first announced, and even why the now-dead Open Moko was also so exciting back in 2007.

The substance of Canonical's announcement is covered by my colleague, David Heath.

When Canonical unveiled the secret I must confess to a sense of disappointment. Make no mistake, an Ubuntu Phone OS is a wonderful concept, but at this time that's all it is – a concept. In fact, Canonical has already previously promoted "Ubuntu for Android" to make its OS available on smartphones. This concept was not something open to the end user or even the hacker community, but was a partnership designed for phone manufacturers. Nothing tangible has resulted from this concept.

So too the Ubuntu Phone announcement brings forth a concept which can only be fulfilled by phone manufacturers. Today's announcement yields nothing that any Ubuntu fan can point to as coming out, and may well join the ranks of famous vapourware through time.

Had Canonical put in the hard yards of partnering with an original equipment manufacturer and unveiled a physical device that you could touch and purchase the announcement would have had so much more power and effect.

Part of me wants to be pleased and delighted by the announcement of an Ubuntu Phone. However, the sad reality is while the concept is tremendous that is all we are left with today – a concept.

Will we see an Ubuntu Phone this year? No. Will we see one next year? I doubt it.


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David M Williams

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David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. Within two years, he returned to his alma mater, the University of Newcastle, as a UNIX systems manager. This was a crucial time for UNIX at the University with the advent of the World-Wide-Web and the decline of VMS. David moved on to a brief stint in consulting, before returning to the University as IT Manager in 1998. In 2001, he joined an international software company as Asia-Pacific troubleshooter, specialising in AIX, HP/UX, Solaris and database systems. Settling down in Newcastle, David then found niche roles delivering hard-core tech to the recruitment industry and presently is the Chief Information Officer for a national resources company where he particularly specialises in mergers and acquisitions and enterprise applications.