Ubuntu’s Community Manager revealed that the first Ubuntu phones are likely delayed until 2015, and will lack “fancy integration” with Ubuntu desktops.
In a Reddit exchange yesterday, Canonical’s Ubuntu Community Manager Jono Bacon answered a commenter’s question about the expected arrival of phones running the new Ubuntu Touch interface. Wrote Bacon: “This is a long road though with many components, and I would be surprised if we see anything like this before 2015.”
In the Reddit conversation, which was reported by the Register, Bacon said that Canonical has yet to sign up any major OEMs or carriers for the phone. “In the shorter-term there are smaller OEMs who serve a smaller region who see great opportunity in Ubuntu, and their costs and risk are smaller for them to trial a device,” writes Bacon. “This is where we will likely see the first handsets shipping.”
In early December, Canonical’s Mark Shuttleworth told CNET that Canonical had signed its first smartphone OEM deal for a high-end phone in 2014. Earlier this month, several photographs of Meizu’s MX3 Android phone running Ubuntu showed up on the Chinese site Weibo, suggesting that the Chinese smartphone vendor might be one of the first Ubuntu OEMs. On the other hand, this may well be a hack of the already available preview version for Android phones, with no connection to an OEM deal.
In June, Canonical announced a Carrier Advisory Group (CAG) of eight mobile carriers around the world, including Verizon. None have committed to carry the phone, however.
Convergence not so convergent at launch
Although the delay from late 2014 to early 2015 is not particularly surprising, Bacon had some more disturbing news for Ubuntu loyalists when he said that the much ballyhooed “convergence” between Ubuntu desktops, phones, and eventually tablets, would likely be delayed. When asked whether there would be any benefit to an Ubuntu Phone user having an Ubuntu desktop instead of Mac or Windows, Bacon answered: “Currently we are not scoping any fancy integration between Ubuntu devices. The primary integration will be getting content and syncing it Ubuntu One, which syncs across devices. In the future we want to have synced config management etc.”
Also on Reddit, Bacon reiterated Canonical’s previous statement that there were no plans to go through with its Ubuntu Edge concept phone, which the company attempted to crowdfund on Indiegogo last summer. Intended as a developer phone for Ubuntu for Phones, the Ubuntu Edge barely reached a third of its unprecedented $32 million goal. As a consolation prize, Canonical now holds the world record for crowdfunding.
“The Ubuntu Edge was really helpful though,” wrote Bacon on Reddit. “It directly triggered a set of discussions from various OEMs and Carriers who were blown away by the support in the community and press for the device.”
In addition, Bacon said that the Ubuntu TV project was “still alive”, but was a lower priority behind the phone, the tablet, and the convergence of both with desktop Ubuntu. Bacon also noted that enterprise users would be included in Ubuntu Phone marketing. The Reddit exchange includes plenty of other interesting observations from Bacon about open source licensing, Firefox OS, Chrome OS, software patents, and more.
XMir slow to warm
Originally, Canonical hinted that the first Ubuntu for Phones devices would ship not long after the “convergence” release of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS in April 2014. By convergence, Canonical means that developers will be able to build simple apps that can run natively on desktop, phone, and tablet versions of Ubuntu. Previously, the company also mentioned Ubuntu TV, but that appears to be farther off. Canonical also suggested the phones and tablets could turn into defacto PCs in docking mode by attaching a monitor, keyboard, and mouse.
In Oct. 2013, with the release of Ubuntu 13.10 (“Saucy Salamander”), Ubuntu released the first experimental code for running the Ubuntu Touch interface on selected Android devices. However, the code was in a more primitive stage than many expected. In addition, Canonical said that the controversial new XMir windowing interface, which was required for the planned convergence, would be delayed from the desktop build beyond the planned Ubuntu 14.04. That suggested that the first phones might not arrive until Ubuntu 14.10 in Oct. 2014. Now this has apparently pushed to 2015.
Increasingly stable builds are likely to arrive for Android phones by April and October of this year, however. At the end of December, the Canonical-backed Ubuntu project released a preview version of Ubuntu that enables dual-booting Ubuntu and Android on a single smartphone or tablet.
Tizen phones also delayed, while Firefox OS gains momentum
Meanwhile, the Samsung-backed Tizen, which many expect to be Canonical’s major Linux-based mobile rival also appears to have been delayed to at least late 2014. However, we’ll likely see a Samsung Tizen announcement at next month’s Mobile World Congress. Mozilla’s Firefox OS is already out of the gate and gaining momentum. However, unlike Ubuntu Phones and Tizen, Firefox OS is exclusively aiming at a lower-end market in emerging nations. At least for now.