A New Dawn or a False Hope?
So why is Canonical angling for the mobile phone market?
Well, the obvious answer is money. As things stand, the supply of music and extended cloud storage are the only revenue streams that the distribution receives -- hardly surprising for an open source project.
Of course, Android is derived from the same Kernel as Ubuntu, and Canonical cannot have been alone at looking enviously at what Google has achieved with its mobile OS.
The Unity interface that debuted in 2010 and found its way into Ubuntu in 11.04 is geared for touch-screen devices, and it is this user interface that will be used according to Canonical’s roadmap, which targets mobile phones and tablet devices among other devices that they intend to provide the OS for by 2014.
“By 14.04 LTS Ubuntu will power tablets, phones, TVs and smart screens from the car to the office kitchen, and it will connect those devices cleanly and seamlessly to the desktop, the server and the cloud," wrote Canonical’s Mark Shuttleworth, and you can hardly deny his ambition for Ubuntu.
But without partnerships with the top hardware manufacturers, an Ubuntu phone or tablet (Upad or Uphone?) isn’t going to be a success, and certainly doesn’t look like an obvious competitor for Google Android. While quoting statistics such as "70% of people in Egypt access the Internet solely via the phone... in the US that figure is a startling 25%," is all very well, it misses the point that these figures represent people who are already accessing the Internet. These are users who are already "sewn up" by the market, and are therefore out of Canonical's reach.
Short of Google ditching Android in the face of endless patent claims and looking to Unity as an alternative, Ubuntu is likely to remain the last best choice, just as it is for desktop users. Perhaps it can make headway in the tablet market where Android is currently struggling, but the mobile phone market is a different proposition.
After all, no one would bet against Google in an Ubuntu vs Android fight!