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Ubuntu coming to Mobile Phones – Will it be worthy?

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Mobile is the future. In fact, Mobile is the present as well. As much as we love our computers, they were always impersonal compared to the attachment a phone generates. No wonder every company wants its fair share of this yummy pie. Another company that is making its entrance official is – Canonical, who have officially launched Ubuntu for Phones!

Ubuntu for mobiles

Now, Ubuntu for phones uses the same basic kernel and drivers as Android. Seeing that both are basically based on Linux this was not unexpected. Although, there are key differences in many areas. For example, the UI is completely different from Android with more focus on gestures than buttons. All the four corners can be used for separate gestures.

Other important key difference is that although using the same core, Android apps will not run on Ubuntu by default as it does not use Dalvik Virtual Machine on which Android apps run. This means that apps have to be natively written for Ubuntu. This means that apps will run natively on Ubuntu phones which might make them run faster than in a virtual environment like Android.

Other features include Search (heavily focused on like its desktop counterpart), lock screen (called welcome screen), HTML 5 and notifications.

Ubuntu for Phones Overview Video

 

The single biggest feature of Ubuntu phone though is – It is dockable and with a keyboard and a mouse, it can provide a complete PC experience.

All the data will seamlessly move and thus a person using an Ubuntu phone might not need a proper PC anymore. Of course, this is in theory for now and only on its arrival will we see how beneficial it is in practicality.

It will release in 2014 in its full glory though images of the current builds might be available soon. Right now, it works only with Galaxy Nexus though more phones should get compatibility and Canonical has plans for both the high end as well as the low end spectrum.

My take on Ubuntu on Phones

I have two reservations on Ubuntu coming on phones…

First, Why would people change ship in the first place? Time and again it has been proven that people need HUGE incentive to actually shift in their working style, be if change of OS or even change of a single piece of software.

This is what made Ubuntu lag to Windows in the first place in Desktop market. Fight with Android in mobile space is similar in many ways. Also, Ubuntu will face the same problem as every new OS in mobile market- Apps Ecosystem!

Second, how will it gain traction in the first place? This also comes from its PC experience. Few laptops ship with Ubuntu natively and where in Laptops it is comparatively easy to install a new OS, mobiles are more closed.

Canonical needs major OEMs to back it up and I do not see why would they unless to get a backup for Android fails for them or fear of Google – Motorola tie up. Even is such scenario, Windows is standing there with open arms and mind you, it also has a really good OS. Blackberry is going to make a comeback this year. Mozilla’s own OS is in the makings.

Infact, Bada, the mobile OS backed by largest phone manufacturer in the world, Samsung, had to shut down because people wanted a better apps ecosystem!

Thus, amidst all this confusion, without a proper strategy, even the best of mobile OS in the market will fail. These challenges are to be taken seriously by Canonical unless they are content with a 2% market share in Mobile market as well.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this!

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About Kunal Prakash

A graduate from IIT-Roorkee, Kunal Prakash’s love for technology was at first sight and everlasting. He is currently enjoying the first stint as a professional after leaving over 20 years of schooling. You can follow him on facebook or visit his blog for his other musings.

7 comments

  1. Wow! Phone looks awesome. Gestures, New Search and totally new experience to handle phone. This looks great to me.

  2. The framework used to develop apps in Ubuntu is QT Framework and language is QML..This language is quite simple compared to objective c for ios and java for android…This will be a gr8 success….

    • Arun Prabhudesai

      @siddharth Vyas – Just having a great framework and language may not be enough for Ubuntu to capture everyone’s imagination. Like mentioned earlier as well, having a great App ecosystem is extremely important for success of any mobile OS. Take for example Windows 8 mobile OS. It has a great UI, great hardware in Nokia and has Microsoft behind it and still it is finding extremely tough to compete with likes of Android and iOS. Add to that fact that they are still 1 year away from launching it. I have no doubt that Ubuntu for phones will be awesome, but whether people will adopt it or not remains to be seen…

  3. Sandeep Shawn-Tripathy

    I just wanted to shout Wow… After watching this video :-)

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