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Open Source Meets Mobile: Ubuntu Linux Now Available on Smartphones

Sites include . Published on January 4th, 2013. Written by Anthony West.

The mobile OS space is dominated by two major players, Android and iOS. This has largely crowded out any would-be OS developer from finding a place on smartphones, especially when such a developer has no partnerships to leverage. Ubuntu is looking to change that and with the launch of its own native OS for smartphones, things could get very interesting.

Ubuntu has been rumored for quite some time as having smartphone ambitious but the reality of such ambitious were stifled largely by Apple’s dominance and then Google’s emergence as the supplier preference for mobile device makers outside of Apple. In other words, when smartphone makers were looking to compete with Apple, they had no choice but to go with the most advanced OS out there and this was Android.

Canonical’s big bet

The maker of Ubuntu will be hoping that the new OS will be a hit with manufacturers first. At its debut in London recently, founder of Canonical, Mark Shuttleworth unveiled a very slick mobile OS, complete with all the touch-enabled brilliance noticeable on every smartphone made today. Many who were on hand were impressed with the search features built in that allow for smother apps navigation, as well as the impressive touch and swipe features that lets users move effortlessly from control to control.

But perhaps Ubuntu for mobile’s biggest selling point will be the voice and text enabled commands which are connected to every app. Siri might just have met her match. Canonical has made a serious play at wooing manufacturers by developing its own native apps for Facebook, Google Maps, Twitter, Gmail and Spotify. No doubt more will be added as the OS gathers steam.

Will users like it?

Ubuntu as an operating system alternative to Windows and OS X is hugely popular. In fact, Ubuntu Linux is the most popular Linux distribution out there and Canonical has made sure that the OS is updated regularly to keep abreast with the changing tastes of computer users. The challenge this new mobile OS will have is tapping a more mainstream audience, something Canonical’s CEO Jane Silber hopes will happen on a wide scale.

“We expect Ubuntu to be popular in the enterprise market, enabling customers to provision a single secure device for all PC, thin client and phone functions. Ubuntu is already the most widely used Linux enterprise desktop, with customers in a wide range of sectors focused on security, cost and manageability. We also see an opportunity in basic smartphones that are used for the phone, SMS, web and email, where Ubuntu outperforms thanks to its native core apps and stylish presentation,” said Silber when speaking at the recent unveiling.

Strong enough pool of users

As a desktop alternative, Ubuntu is used by more than 20 million people—that’s a lot. This wide uptake seems to have been the confidence booster canonical needed in pressing ahead with development of Ubuntu for smartphones. As long as Canonical can find a smartphone maker to take the gamble then Ubuntu users I am sure will support the manufacture. From this perspective I can see a struggling smartphone maker as an ideal target for Ubuntu mobile. For one thing such a smartphone should be cheaper, and if all the features displayed recently hold up, then a cheaper phone may not equate to a sacrifice of modernity.

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