Mark Shuttleworth, the multi-millionaire space tourist who bankrolls the Ubuntu effort to take Linux to the mass market, says that the company is now targeting "a broader range of form factors … from the phone through the tablet to televisions", thanks to its "touch framework" and Unity user interface. Products are expected in about 18 months, though Canonical was not announcing a schedule. He said: "Delivery to market is to some extent in the hands of our partners."
Shuttleworth said Canonical's efforts were focused on version 12.04, Precise Pangolin, which is expected in April 2012. This will be the next version scheduled for what Canonical calls Long Term Support. (It will be supported for five years, until 2017.)
Although some Ubuntu geeks and "power users" have complained about Unity, Shuttleworth said it had been designed to work on a wide range of devices. He said Unity had been tested not on power users but on people with no previous experience of Ubuntu. "Over the last two years, users have gotten dramatically more productive," he said.
Shuttleworth conceded that "we will be late to market compared with some of the rich offerings out there, but we will have some advantages, and will play those cards to the best of our ability." Canonical was better able to work with manufacturers than "consortium Linuxes", and already had a services framework.
Canonical expected to make money by engaging with the hardware vendors and providing customisation. "Also, we would look to have some revenues from services." However, being controlled by a single company, Shuttleworth hoped that Ubuntu could avoid the "ultimately destructive" fragmentation of Android.
Shuttleworth said Canonical was a "viable platform" for PCs, with "in excess of 20 million users", and would be "the premier desktop interface for the next 200 million users". Manufacturers of non-PC devices such as phones, tablets and TV sets were now looking to use Ubuntu on reference devices. Also, "we will target some standard hardware that is available throughout the world," said Shuttleworth.
"I know that we have a great deal of work ahead of us…."
Shuttleworth's conference call to journalists was held in the context of the Ubuntu Developer Summit, which opened today in Florida.