Ubuntu Touch: The next hot smartphone operating system

Ubuntu Touch: The next hot smartphone operating system

Summary: Android rules, iOS is cool, but third place is up for grabs. With the release of Ubuntu Touch, Canonical shows that its first Linux for mobile devices may have what it takes to be a major smartphone operating system.

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  • Say hi to Ubuntu for smartphones: Ubuntu Touch.

    At first glance, Ubuntu 13.10 for smartphones, aka Ubuntu Touch, looks like any other mobile operating system. Some of the differences are minor. For instance, there's a search bar on the top along with the usual device indicators and the main window displays only what’s currently in use instead of a default selection of icons. A closer look reveals an operating system and user interface (UI) that's not quite like any other mobile UI.  

  • Using the edges: Swipe the Ubuntu Touch's right edge to unlock it.

    For starters, under the UI, there's the Mir display server and windows manager. Above it, there's the Unity 8 shell. Ubuntu has been using this shell on the desktop for years. A major difference from other device interfaces is that you start most activities by using the interface's edges rather than icons. For example, to unlock the phone, you swipe from the right edge.  

Topics: Mobility, Linux, Mobile OS, Ubuntu

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51 comments
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  • How hard is it to get even a poor quality gallery object?

    Serious ZDNet. The gallery viewer is simply horrid beyond belief.
    Bruizer
    • I agree

      I'm quite fed-up with the antiquated gallery used by ZDNet.
      1,2,3
    • +10000000000000000000000

      Horrid.
      goombawa
  • me too

    Hmm.. yes. I'm a novice but I think I made a better gallery effort with some simple css/javascript on one of my sites.

    On topic though, I guess we'll wait and see if any carriers pick up ubuntu.
    01micko
    • I don't know where you live

      But in the US, Verizon and T-Mobile have backed Ubuntu Touch, so a reasonable number of people could be exposed. I hope AT&T and Sprint follow suit, as well as smaller carriers.
      TheMimic12
  • How hard is it to make icons look like iOS 6?

    If they will do it then I might jump the ship. I hate iOS 7 so much.
    ios7-sucks
  • Gallery !~@%&!

    Yes the gallery really sucks bad, please fix it.
    Scroogled
  • Ubuntu for Mobile?????

    SJVN - give it up, it's never going to happen
    Paul Smith-Keitley
    • It Is Happening

      And the world is ready for it (even if your not). Linux has proven capable in the mobile realm via Android and the Ubuntu UI has the abilities that Android lacks.

      Combine that with the fact that Ubuntu for tablets has already gained a strong beta following and Canonical's CEO, Mark Shuttleworth's, determination to make this a reality is equaled only by his company's ability to consistantly produce stable operating systems.

      People are willing to try new things when it comes to smartphones. That's the reason why so many tried the Windows smartphone.

      Comments should add to the conversation. Trolling is sooo distasteful.
      scriptman06
      • Actually what it is

        is reality bites, and it bites SJVN in the rump a lot. This is another copy and failure for Ubuntu. It will be a nich...
        ScanBack
        • If you don't like

          SJVN then why do you read his posts and articles?

          Ubuntu is anything but copy and failure. Please do your homework first.

          I agree that the Ubuntu phones will start as a nich, however, once consumers and businesses see the value, they will spread to those that do not know of Linux (i.e. most Android users) yet. Most iOS fans will remain so due to the pretty colors and prestige.

          Marketing will also play a big role as to how fast Ubuntu Touch phones catch on.

          One line responses neither educate or enlighten those looking for valid information. When trolling, wear a helmet because true reality hurts.
          scriptman06
      • Technical capability is pretty low on the list of needs

        for a new phone OS to break through. It's all about the apps. How many and how good. And with the weight of the Apple's and Google's respective app stores behind them, it's going to be tough to take on iOS and Android. Even Microsoft has a long uphill battle.
        Michael Kelly
        • Ubuntu has the advantage

          of being open-sourced and based on CyanogenMod (which is based on Android). That should make it easier for developers to port apps to Ubuntu Touch. that should prevent Ubuntu from launching with a small number of apps that doesn't grow much, like Windows Phone and BlackBerry.
          TheMimic12
      • Seriously, no

        "Linux has proven capable in the mobile realm via Android and the Ubuntu UI has the abilities that Android lacks"

        1) No it hasn't. Having the ability to "be installed" is NOT "proven capable". Real tech reviews elsewhere will tell you that (on Nexus) it's laggy, power consumption is horrendous, and it's "stable" to the point of running for DEVELOPERS to play with and no where near prime time. So how you conclude that it's "proven capable" is beyond me.

        2) What "abilities" does the Ubuntu UI have on a mobile device that Android (or iOS for that matter) lacks? It'll be the same icon based UI to appeal to as many AVERAGE users as possible, which means it will be no different. And it certainly doesn't provide anything that Android/iOS "lacks".

        3) "That's the reason why so many tried the Windows smartphone" -- Yea, approximately 3-4%. Considering Win decktop is on 95+ percent of users decktops and 3-4 percent have tried windows smartphones, then do the math. The only people this will appeal to is the same exact base of desktop Linux users.

        In the end, it will "look and feel" just like Android or iOS just like they were doing with desktop variations of Linux forever. Unless they do something massively better than Android/iOS, nobody will ever hear about it, or care.
        waterhzrd
        • Please explain

          To me how Android hasn't proven capable in the mobile realm? Surely you realize that Android is built on a Linux base.

          Have you tried Ubuntu on a Nexus or are you taking the word of others? As a developer, let me say that the current version is a beta version and such made for developers and testers. If you expect it to be release stable then you clearly do not understand beta.

          As to the abilities of Ubuntu. I will simply ask a question: Can your iOS, Android, or Win smartphone connect to a docking station and become a fully functional Mac or PC?

          This market has absolutely nothing to do with the desktop market. If that was the case then the Win smartphone would rule the market. In truth, the reason only a small percent tried the Win phone was because of the M$FT name. The look and feel alone turns a lot of consumers away.

          In the end, most will not care whether it is iOS, Android, or Ubuntu. They will only care whether or not it works and how many apps it has. The power user will be the only one who cares.
          scriptman06
    • More Microsoft denial, Paul Smith-Keitley?

      It has already happened. There are thousands of developers already using Ubuntu touch and the April 2014 roll-out will mainstream Ubuntu Touch.
      InformationRetrieval
      • Developers are on thing, paying customers another

        And that is what Canonical is looking for, not just the developer set, as there are not enough developers to support this.

        Let us wait and see what and see what those numbers are before declaring it a success or failure.
        John Zern
    • I agree - wow it looks like... wait for it...wait for it...

      iOS and/or Android.
      ScanBack
  • Ubuntu and Windows suffer the same problems

    Both are late to the mobile game with viable options.
    Both lack carriers
    Both lack applications for the mobile crowd.

    Though I suspect Windows will do better than Ubuntu, both are destined to follow the pack for a very long time.

    Apple makes more money and Android has more phones / tablets. I doubt the market will change much in the near future. Even if Ubuntu finds a vendor, that vendor will maintain the Android fleet of phones and install Ubuntu on one or two models just for the hard core Linux fans. A truly niche market. Any attempt to call Ubuntu Mobile mainstream would be foolhardy.
    Cynical99
    • Ubuntu has some critical differences from Windows on phones

      As SJVN quipped, "third place is still up for grabs", so I think he agrees with you in that Ubuntu would be "following the pack", but I do thing MSFT has bigger challenges that could make its toehold on 3rd place difficult to retain.

      The one thing MSFT lacks is "development community". The Windows platoform shares nothing at its basic architeture with any other system. It is driven by "not invented here syndrome". Win Phone uses a build of the Windows NT kernel, shared only within Microsoft OSes (prior to Win Phone 8 it didn't even have that; it used the cut-down CE kernel). MSFT has its own store, it has its own app development tools and infreastructure, its own everything.

      This sounde a lot like Apple, but Apple had first-mover adavntage with the iOS ecosystem, and it had full ontrol of the hardware as well. MSFT woke up and arrived at the party way too late and more recently has been flailing about trying to exert apple-like control on the software stack without stepping on the toes of its hardware partners. Not only does MSFT have to get its act together product wise and attract customers, it has to engender a trusting relationship with app developers. this is a big huge tall order.

      Canonical faces an uphill battle to be sure, but the slope is not as steep. Ubuntu Touch OS uses a Linux kernel like Android...and Tizen...and Firefox OS...and countless PC based OSes. There is a very old, deep, established developer community around Linux based OSes. Ubuntu could run the Dalvik VM and be at least partially compatible with Android. It could run HTML5 apps designed for Firefox OS. It could run any number of apps already available to Ubuntu computer users (especially if you attach display, keyboard and mouse and use your mobile as a computer when you are at your desk) Canonical is the first big company to explore that last option. MSFT is running behind the curve there; they are stll stuck on the "three screens" model, lost in the effort to make them all look and work the same even when it makes no sense--in the meantime much more innovative people are saying three screens perhaps but ONE DEVICE.

      All that said, I think chances are better than even Ubuntu, or at least "non-Andorid Linux" in general, in the long term is the better bet to secure third place in the mobile computing market. I personally think Ubuntu may not do this by itself but it will be a big player in that market segment if they do it right, and I fear they may mess up in their quest for market presence. In the end I think HTML5 apps will begin to dominate and that "native" alternatives may become "cross-linux-platform"--for example apps could run on Tizen and/or Ubuntu and/or Sailfish without modification or with a simple rebuild. However this depends on how good an "open source citizen" Canonical is. Lately they have been behaving badly. First they thought systemd was "too invasive" and so decided to adopt their own "upstart" for service/deamon management, then they took their opendesktop marbles and went home to create Mir instead of following through with a commitment to Wayland. They could not compromise enough on GNOME development, and not only did they not switch to anothe existing or even fork they built Unity from scratch. If they continue antagonising then whatever appeal they have for people who want "less evil" open platofrm than Andriod will evapourate.

      I wish them the best with Ubunti Touch, but if they keep doing things that divide communities there are options in the wings that are further along and may have a better shot at the bronze medal. Tizen has Samsung as the prime sponsor and several carriers and other device makers on their board, and several devices (not just phones) are in the midt of being released (or recently released). Firefox OS is released and has Telephonica backing it and a couple of phones available to the market already. Sailfish OS (which shares some heritage with Tizen) already has devices on the market that are compatible with (or come from factory with) Sailfish, and it has good comapability with Android and HTML5 apps.

      The mobile computing market is moving to commodity standards. Apple may hold on to its traditinal niche position and Android may be a big influence on the standards but the duopoly will not last. MSFT and BBRY will continue declining if they try to emulate Appletoo much and ignore standards. Third place is indeed up for grabs and I think it will be fought for by one of several standards-embracing, probably Linux-based platforms. Ubuntu standa a good chance, but it isn't the only, or even best-positioned, alternative to Andriod.
      Mark Hayden