Top 5 reasons the Ubuntu Linux phone might make it

Top 5 reasons the Ubuntu Linux phone might make it

Summary: True, Ubuntu on the phone has many obstacles in its way, but it also has many things going for it as well.

One reason why Ubuntu on phones might make it is that it's very attractive.

Las Vegas - Yes, I've just been arguing that Ubuntu isn't likely to beat Android on smartphones. But, you know what? Even with Ubuntu Linux on phones very late start I think it has a real shot to make a mark in the smartphone market. Here's why.

Over the last few days I've talked with Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth and Ubuntu's community manager Jono Bacon at CES about their plans and and I've gotten a look at an early version of Ubuntu for phones From this I've come up with my list of the top five things Ubuntu for phones has going for it. 

5) Ubuntu Unity interface

Even at its very early stages Unity on the phone is the sweetest smartphone interface I'd ever seen. I've always known Ubuntu's default interface, Unity, was really meant for touch interfaces, now that I've seen it on a phone it really shows to its best advantage.

According to Bacon, you'll have the chance to install it and see it for yourself on Galaxy Nexus phones beginning in March. There have been other reports that the first Ubuntu for phones installation images will appear in February, but March is much more likely.

4) Easy Smartphone OS Upgradability

Shuttleworth pointed out to me, unlike Android, where the version you get is what you usually are stuck with for forever and a day, Ubuntu on phones, just like on the desktop, will be constantly upgraded. For frustrated Android smartphone geeks who always want the newest version they'll feel like they died and went to heaven.

Bacon added though that Ubuntu for phone won't be using same release model as Ubuntu desktop. There won't be one universal image that can be used on all phones. Each phone model will need its own image to make the best possible use of its hardware.

3) Easy Carrier Customization

At the same time, however, carriers will be able to easily customize the phone interface and add their own apps. So, how can it be both easy for end-users to upgrade to the latest version and at the same time let carriers add in their applications and particular look and feel? Easy. By keeping the carrier optimizations in user space, where it's easy to change things, and out of the core operating system itself. This could be the best of both world for end-users and carriers.

2) Linux Desktop Software Compatibility

I had been worried about getting software developers to give Ubuntu a try. I mean there's already so much money to be made in Android and iOS and there's only so many embedded programmers to go around. Bacon made me realize though that all existing Ubuntu applications—LibreOffice, Gimp, Rhythmbox, etc.--will all run on Ubuntu phones. Now getting them to display properly on the phone's interface will take some work, but that's the easy part. The core functionality of tens of thousands of Linux apps will already be available. Of course, if you use your Ubuntu smartphone to power up a PC display you won't even need that.

To make it easier for existing Linux programmers to bring their desktop apps to the phone, Bacon said Ubuntu is working on providing programmers with QML (Qt Meta Language) widgets for quick interface development. QML, along with HTML5 and OpenGL, is native to Ubuntu on phones. These, and the software development kit (SDK), said Bacon, should be out in March.

What all this means is that every Linux programmer out there can also be a smartphone programmer. Almost a thousand developers, said Bacon, are already working on Ubuntu phone apps. Bottom line: Ubuntu is going to have thousands of apps. ready to go before it ships. 

1) Green Fields and High End Markets

Shuttleworth also observed that Ubuntu gives carriers two models. In the first, they can cheaply add Ubuntu to low-end phones. This may not matter much in the power-hungry first-world countries, but Shuttleworth believes this makes Ubuntu ideal for second and third-world countries.

In the second high-end model, users will be able to use top-of-the-line Ubuntu smartphones both as a phone and as a desktop. Does the idea of using a smartphone to power your desktop sound silly to you? It shouldn't.

Tablets are already doing it and, as Shawn Dubravac, CEA's Chief Economist and Senior. Director of Research observed at CES said, "65% of the time we spend on mobile phones is not communications. Even adding in e-mail, texting, and so on, smartphones are no longer about communication." Shuttleworth and company are just taking the smartphone to its next natural evolutionary step.

Finally, Bacon observed that "No one loves their Android phone, we want to build a phone that users will love: One that will be more beautiful than Apple and as powerful as Android but with the open -source legacy of Ubuntu." I like that vision of Ubuntu on phones. I like it a lot. I really hope it comes to fruition and, for all the reasons I give above, I think it just might make it.

Related Stories:

Topics: Ubuntu, Hardware, Linux, Mobile OS, Open Source, Smartphones, Software Development, Bring Your Own Device

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  • Top 5 Reasons the Ubuntu Linux phone might make it

    It won't. Its destined for failure when someone like you casts doubts about it. The 5 reasons listed are not good enough. People have spoken, they don't want linux on their phones because its too much like linux on the desktop and we know what nightmare that was. Imagine trying to watch streaming video but you can't because the codec isn't installed. Hang on, I have to download the source and compile it, this might take a while. Can you send me a txt to remind me to watch it next week once its compiled and configured? And it doesn't stop there.
    • Wrong, Lovecock, as usual.

      I know several others besides myself waiting to try this. I'm with SJVN on this one.
    • Android..

      Android is linux at its core and you don't need to compile anything. I am sure the devolopers of Ubuntu mobile have taken this into consideration. Wow, it's people like you who bring the world down with your diarrhea of the mouth. Please just stop with your nonsense Lovecock-Davidson.
      • android is not linux

        Sorry, you are quite unaware of the real situation. Android is not linux, it is a Java virtual machine. That is why the performance sort of sucks and a technical reason why Ubuntu could take off. Plus google is slacking with support for hardware. They still don't have Bluetooth 4 support because google hasn't written it. I think the ubuntu phone is something i may buy.
        • Haha

          It's amazing how shameless ignorance is. Android is Linux, that's not even open to debate. Is Linux and on top of Linux there's a Java Virtual Machine.
          • Android uses a Linux kernel,

            But it is a very crappy version of Linux.
    • Loverock-Davidson is a spammer

      Why do you seem so stupid? This article describes you correctly:
      Btw nobody wants Microsoft cr*p anymore. Ubuntu Phone is here to stay and there is nothing you can do about it.
      Alexander Xavi
      • Nobody?

        I think this is going to be my hobby for a while, but it seems to me that lots of people want MS stuff, if only to run their favorite apps and keep a UI they're used to.
        John L. Ries
        • Agreed.

          Agree on that one, though alternate operating systems are gaining steam as far as compatibility goes.
          The scenario is going to change completely by the next decade or so though as the world transitions to alternate operating systems.
          Corporate market is where Microsoft is very strong at the moment and I don't except to see that change for atleast a decade.
          Alexander Xavi
      • You did a search for me

        Thanks for being a fan!
      • Cyberslammer/sc007/tb7

        Needs locking-up in a secure mental facility.
      • Grow up

        Microsoft is not crap, it's damn good software! Windows has been stable for years and I have NEVER had a crash in MS Office. Why do people who like one platform always have to criticise another? You certainly can't argue Libre Office even comes close to Office 2010. I can't stand Apple, but I am not going to rubbish Apple, I simply don't buy their products.

        Now back to the real topic here. I am an Android user and love the versatility of it and assume Ubuntu will be even more versatile? I am not a Ubuntu user, so I have a lot to learn. Starting off a mobile phone platform with 1000s of apps already there is a great move!
        • Your right and its rediculous. Its insanity.

          I just read some posts on the article about the Apple hacking. The same crap and nonsense is going on under that article trying to describe OSX as being swiss cheese. Neither Windows or OSX is swiss cheese.

          Its the price we now have to pay for years of stupid Mac users claiming Windows is swiss cheese that now vengeful Windows users are now trying to start the same stupidity about OSX and/or iOS being swiss cheese simply because exactly what Windows users said would happen to Apple when/if they sold popular products would happen. They would be targeted as well and broken into in measure with their popularity. And of course, as all Windows users expected, now its starting to happen.

          Being right in one respect dosnt justify idiot talk in another. It kills me how both Windows and Apple users feel so free in hurling ridiculous and false accusations about the opposing products. Im just waiting for an absolute complete catastrophe for one or the both of them that will at least shut one side up for a while. But, I don’t expect such a catastrophe to befall either one because while neither is perfect, they both have plenty enough security to ensure a catastrophe is unlikely.

          Far too often people around ZDNet feel absolutely free to lose their mind and make it very public in the process.
        • Try Linux and see if you still say that.

          I put Fuduntu on my 11 year old Dell and it now runs FASTER than my Windows 7 computer. You can download Ubuntu here:
          And put it on a USB drive using a tool from here:
          You can also search for another distro if you like. (Fuduntu looks like mac.)
    • There's our Lovey....

      I wondered when I caught his post where he extolled the virtues of Firefox, but apparently he's off his meds again and back to blathering his mindless drivel about downloading and compiling.
    • Top 5 reasons the Ubuntu Linux phone might make it

      In response to the comment made by "Loverock-Davidson";
      It sounds like it has been quite a long while since you have used a modern Linux distro. Those issues that you bring up haven't been true for many years. To watch videos, flash, well, just about anything you'd want to do on A Windows or Mac, you can do on a Linux based machine. There are a lot of people who are die hard Linux fans who dislike the Unity GUI for UBUNTU, mostly because it *is* quite obvious it's designed for a touch screen Tablet or phone. Personally I love it. I have been using Linux for four years on my main desktop PC, and haven't had to "compile" anything, in fact, I had to configure Windows to do more than I have with Linux. Mint is a distro that "out of the box" offers everything a windows user is used to and more. I have been using UBUNTU for over a year now on my Media/ Home Theatre PC and it's brilliant. I don't dislike Android, but it could be SO much better. I think UBUNTU is more than poised to give IOS and especially ANdriod a run for their money.
      Couple of last factiods; Android spawned from Linux, and still, although has changed dramatically, has it's roots there. And UBUNTU is the 3rd most widely used O.S. in the world, that has to say something for it. To talk about command line, and compiling things in 2013 about Linux, is a bit outdated thinking.
      Rick Brookes
      • Not just Unity

        "There are a lot of people who are die hard Linux fans who dislike the Unity GUI for UBUNTU, mostly because it *is* quite obvious it's designed for a touch screen Tablet or phone."

        This is precisely the reason why I detest Windows 8. Hopefully, Microsoft will come to their senses before they release Windows 9. A PC is not a phone.
      • About L-D...

        Lovey's been spouting his command-line and compile drivel for many years, and has been informed many (many, many) times how he's wrong. I've told him a few times how I've used Linux for many years, and have absolutely no idea how to compile ANYthing. He's THE anti-Linux troll at ZDNet. And it looks like he went through and flagged every post that wasn't for MS...
    • absurd and not relevant

      You probably haven't used Ubuntu in the last few years have you?

      Compiling from source is a very rare event, usually reserved for testing beta programs from sourceforge.

      Ubuntu has a bunch of codecs to download from its software centre, and with VLC, there is nearly nothing you can't play.

      Your criticism is a tired and banal caricature of Linux.
    • Talking out of turn

      It's obvious to anyone here that knows anything at all about Linux and Ubuntu that you've had only the smallest amount of experience in Linux and several years ago at that. Ubuntu installs all relevant codecs at install with a single click of your mouse, and all necessary and relevant apps to 99% of users are already compiled and just work. The only time you'd ever need to compile anything is for the most obscure application that you just can't live without, and even then it's mostly just that the user refuses to re-learn a new way. People that compile things do so out of choice, as I myself have done, and so long as build essentials is installed nearly any application comes with its own makefile anyway, so its' a matter of dropping into terminal and running make and make install.....not exactly rocket science.