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Who Would Actually Build an Ubuntu Smartphone? 230

Nerval's Lobster writes "When Canonical whipped back the curtain from its upcoming Ubuntu for smartphones, it set off a flurry of blogosphere speculation about the open-source operating system's chances on the open market. But which company would actually build such a device? Apple and Research In Motion and Nokia are all out of the running, for very obvious reasons. Motorola, as a subsidiary of Google, is also unlikely to leap on the Ubuntu bandwagon. While Hewlett-Packard has flirted with smartphones in the past, most notably after its Palm acquisition, the company doesn't seem too focused on that segment at the moment. That leaves manufacturers such as HTC, which currently offer devices running either Google Android or Windows Phone. But given Android's popularity, it might prove difficult for Canonical to convince these manufacturers to do more than release a token Ubuntu device—especially if Google and Microsoft apply counter-pressure."
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Who Would Actually Build an Ubuntu Smartphone?

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  • Who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MacDork ( 560499 ) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @11:55AM (#42462513) Journal
    Give me a ubuntu rom that works and I'll install it myself.
    • Precisely what I was hoping for... yet no download link and no list of supported devices. Anybody likely to want to use Linux is also likely to be technically capable to install one -- especially on a Nexus device. Trying to market this to the general public is destined to failure without the ability to at the very least run Android apps and have access to the Google Play store.
    • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jareth-0205 ( 525594 ) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @12:48PM (#42463347) Homepage

      Give me a ubuntu rom that works and I'll install it myself.

      Yeah, I talked to a Ubuntu guy at an Android conference about this who was showing off a dual Android-Ubuntu runnin Mororola Atrix II. His position was fairly much 'no', since they want to sell this to manufacturers as a feature they can have. Shame, though I can see their point of view.

      • Re:Who cares? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @01:04PM (#42463581) Homepage Journal

        ...and yet the anti-Googlers on Slashdot were assuring us, yesterday, that the huge advantage of this system is that it would be "truely open" rather than Google's "impossible to fork" Android...

        You know, they still haven't released Ubuntu for Android to the public, and that's a much more interesting project. I'm not holding out for this to ever be released, despite the plethora of open phones we have these days and the supposed use of an Android kernel.

      • by slim ( 1652 )

        Dual boot?

        The demo I saw was Ubuntu and Android running in tandem on the same Galaxy S3. I'm not sure whether Ubuntu was in Android user space, vice versa, or whether both are under some supervisor. But the handset was showing the Android UI while Ubuntu Desktop was on a HDMI monitor, Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.

        It all seems rather nice. The two OSs can communicate, for example you could interact with the Android contacts database from an app in Ubuntu.

    • by slacka ( 713188 )

      Native Android? Hell Yeah! I would love to flash this on my S2. I suffered with a laggy HTML5 based WebOS Pre, then loved my silky smooth 3GS, but hated the walled garden, so moved again to a Galaxy S2. My S2’s H/W by all accounts blows my old 3GS out of the water,and yet I still find the Android experience more laggy than my 3 year old 3GS. I’m sure much of this is the Java VM holding Android back. I can’t wait to have an Linux phone with the native speed of IOS.

      Before buying one, I'd wan

      • yet I still find the Android experience more laggy than my 3 year old 3GS

        Could be the hardware. After doing a lot of comparison shopping when I needed a new phone I decided early on that I wanted a galaxy S and landed on the Blaze. Although it wasn't the newest (Samsung were hyping the Galaxy SIII at the time, hard) I landed on the Blaze for its dual core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S3 processor, plus being 4G, it was a no-brainer. The SIII was considerably more expensive as I wanted a month-to-month bill, not a two year contract, which was the only deal they offered with the SIII. And I

    • ...2013 will be the year of Ubuntu Phone??
    • Re:Who cares? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @05:12PM (#42467071)

      I think this is the current plan [firstpost.com]:

      The new mobile OS will presently only work on the Google Nexus Phone, (the one which was released by Samsung). Ubuntu will release an open-source code as a file and users can install it on their Nexus phone. The OS will replace Android once you install it.

  • Who would buy the ubuntu phone? How many units?
    • More to the point, what carrier would support it. An all too easy to hack phone, would get in a way of a lot of the cost extra features.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

        Same ones that sell Nexus?

        Or ones that just let you have a sim card and get out of your way?

      • It can be used in countries where carriers don't shit on their customers, for example.
      • I can already buy sim-only contracts from every UK carrier, and sim-free unlocked handsets from all over the place (not least Google and their Nexus range). Clearly they don't care that much.

        If Canonical could get the phones manufactured, they could just sell them sim-free and unlocked from their website, in the same way as Google do. The challenge is getting a manufacturer to sign up for it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lpevey ( 115393 )

      The thing is, a year or two ago, I would have bought one. Until recently, I ran Ubuntu as my primary desktop since Dapper (before that, I was a RedHat person), so you would think I would be part of the primary target group. But, if my own feelings are in any way indicative, this is going to be a very tough sell. Even I gave up hope for Ubuntu (and linux) after numerous annoyances and bugs...things were getting worse each year, not better.

      - The Ubuntu One annoyance started it for me.
      - The Gnome 3 fiasco.

      • Given the last two items, why would a nerd who is protesting Apple's closed system ever want to choose Ubuntu?

        Nerds like to tinker. We pride ourselves on it. But we also pride ourselves on using the best tool for the job. That is no longer Ubuntu.

        Ubuntu is completely misreading their market.

        My switch: I have been using Win 7 for about 6 months now, and I love it.

        In what way is Windows 7 more open than Ubuntu? Don't like Unity- you can install Gnome 3, or anything else. Don't like Ubuntu One? You can uninstall the programme easily enough.

        Slashdotters don't like iOS because of the closed ecosystem; you can't install what you want, you can't change the settings you want to change, you can't access the low-level functionality of your device if you need/want to. Ubuntu has none of those problems. Not only is it still completely configurable, and you can install from any

        • by lpevey ( 115393 )

          My argument was not that Ubuntu is more open than Apple. However, I do think that from a user's perspective it is less open than Windows or Android. That it why I said Ubuntu is not the choice for someone looking to escape Apple's closed ecosystem.

          I understand your argument: You can install whatever app you want on Ubuntu. Technically, this is true. In practice, no. The apps most people want are not available on Ubuntu, and probably never will be.

          The vast majority of people who have stuck with windows

    • by Patch86 ( 1465427 ) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @02:04PM (#42464433)

      I would buy one, I think, depending on details. Since the death of MeeGo, there hasn't been a serious GNU/Linux based phone on the market. If Ubuntu can deliver a phone with something approaching the same feature set as they do in their full desktop distro, then it would be exactly what I've always wanted from a Smartphone.

      I know you're being snide, but a reminder that Ubuntu is still the most popular Linux distro; although it is no-longer flavour of the month with the Slashdot crowd, it still has a large enough following to be a serious player.

      And hey, Unity is always being criticised as looking like a phone/tablet OS shoehorned onto a desktop...

  • by eksith ( 2776419 ) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @11:59AM (#42462587) Homepage
    I'm still waiting for a simple, pain-free, way to turn my old phones (not just Android ones) into simple general purpose computers by wiping the existing ROM. Cyanogenmod isn't available for my clunker.
    Isn't that sad? A state-of-the-art piece of technology is only a clunker because its handicapped.
  • Install Android, and install Ubuntu's user space in a chroot [ubuntu.com]. Connecting the machine to HDMI would display a prompt to start the X11 session, just as connecting an Android 2.x device to a PC used to display a prompt to mount the internal storage.
    • Connecting the machine to HDMI would display a prompt to start the X11 session,

      The point of a phone is that you can use it "on the go". Hopefully, you wouldn't need an external HDMI display to access the Ubuntu, that would kinda defeat the purpose... (Yes, it's nice on a hotel room TV, but what about Starbucks, bus stops, chair lifts, boring dinners, or any of the other occasions where you might surf using your pocket device...)

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        Where do old phones go to die?

        I have old PCs lingering on being useful despite the fact that they are unsuitable for their primary purpose anymore. Why not allow the same thing for phones and tablets?

        An old phone could be a dedicated HTPC or a low profile server. Kind of the opposite of virtualization.

      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        Hopefully, you wouldn't need an external HDMI display to access the Ubuntu, that would kinda defeat the purpose

        You could just tap the "Ubuntu" icon to launch your X session. It'd just pop up automatically when you dock to a monitor.

        Yes, it's nice on a hotel room TV

        That or a home TV.

        but what about Starbucks, bus stops

        I carry a netbook for these situations. With their discontinuation, one might consider using a laptop-style dock for the phone, something Motorola didn't end up pulling off with its Atrix phone.

        chair lifts, boring dinners, or any of the other occasions where you might surf using your pocket device

        In the dual-boot scenario I mentioned, Android still works. So would your X session, provided that your applications have been modified to use a touch-friendly widget set.

        • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

          Better yet, drive the screen separately from the other display and use it for Mouse and keyboard only.

        • That or a home TV.

          The purpose of such a Ubuntu phone is to have Ubuntu at your disposal while on the road. At home, you've got your fully fledged PC with big keyboard, ergonomic mouse, nice screen...

          Yes, I do have a Nokia N900, and being able to open up a terminal locally (on the built-in screen) and use the command line is really nice :-)

          bus stops

          I carry a netbook for these situations.

          Whenever you take the bus, you've got your netbook with you? The advantage of a phone is, it fits into your pocket, no backpack needed. Or maybe, the backpack is not just for the netbook,

          • by tepples ( 727027 )

            Whenever you take the bus, you've got your netbook with you?

            Yes, in fact. That's why I bought a 10" laptop instead of a bigger laptop: it fits in an ordinary messenger bag that doesn't look like the "mug me" magnet that a typical laptop case is.

  • by paulsnx2 ( 453081 ) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @12:01PM (#42462607)

    I would like to do actual development on a smart phone, and why not? It has more hundreds of times the computing power of mainframe I, as a student, shared with the entire university!

    I want an app that lets me use any computer and keyboard to connect to my phone, and use it as a gateway to the cloud, to hold my personal work, etc.

    • Perhaps you should tell your University to get rid of their Cray-1 and upgrade their mainframe to something which was manufactured this century.

    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      Any reason you can't just install an ssh server on your phone?

      Or is that not cloud/whizbang/synergistic enough for you?

  • Does a netbook, Ubuntu Netbook Remix, and Google voice count. It saves airtime when travelling + free unlimited texting. A larger screen and keyboard are helpful for the baby boomers nearing retirement. When away from WiFi, it rolls over to a cell so no calls are lost.

  • I have little doubt that they are interested in getting a phone maker to make a phone for them. If I were to guess, they will first target the Google Nexus devices.

    • In the long run I really hope that we can get out of this idea that general purpose computers marketed as "smartphones" by default should be locked down to running the operating system it shipped with.
  • Phones will probably stop sucking at almost exactly the same time that you can go buy a "white box" phone which doesn't have any OS preloaded at all.

    Or better yet, when Coolermaster and Silverstone make phone enclosures, Asus and Gigabyte sell phone boards, etc..

    • It's never happened with Laptops. Why would it happen with desktops. Enclosures for such small devices.... not going to happen.
      • It's never happened with Laptops.


        • Sure there are a few sites where you can "custom build" a laptop, but it's not like with a desktop where you can order a case, motherboard, CPU, etc, and put it all together yourself.
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Or better yet, when Coolermaster and Silverstone make phone enclosures, Asus and Gigabyte sell phone boards, etc..

      You really feel Asus, Gigabyte etc. contribute much when they're all using the same few chipsets from Intel/AMD? Almost all the "differentiation" could have been done with expansion cards in case you'd like another NIC or more USB3 ports or two more SATA3 ports. The differences otherwise are highly marginal.

  • We already have too many OS contenders in the market already. Canonical should instead made applications if they're hot to trot in order to jump into the hot cell phone markets. That said, the expenential bell curve on smart phones is soon to start rounding off once the majority of dumb phone users are forced into the upgrade due to availability. Once we're there, people will be looking for the next best hot exponential bell curve market (currently tablets) ad infinitum... The only areas unaffected by smart

  • They tried Tizen in a Galaxy S3, and were planning to release a Tizen phone. Launching an ubuntu one, or at least, having it available for dual boot or optional OS, would not be so bad. In general, take out Apple, RIM, MS (if they make a phone like they did a tablet) and maybe Nokia, and all the other makers could try models with it instead of android, bada, sailfish, tizen, webos, firefox os or symbian, if is good enough. All those alternative OSs have their own good points, but having available an alterna
  • I think that Asian companies are not out of the game. They almost always use some kind of open solution for their devices, since nobody wants proprietary OS no apps for that. For now, they use Android, but they can try Ubuntu in the future too.
  • Who ? (Score:2, Funny)

    by rossdee ( 243626 )

    Does a cellphone even work from inside the TARDIS ?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Rose's did

    • after a bit of jiggery pokery yes they do in fact Martha Jones? used her (loaned) cell phone to call The Doctor back to earth during that sontaren gas thing.

      and of course during The Stolen Earth Team Who rigged up a way to call The Doctor when they were out of timesync by a couple seconds.

      but anyway as long as you can have a BinBlob for the radio stuff i think an OS phone could work

      heck are they working on the hooks for Phones in the main Kernel??

  • Why couldn't RIM do this? It would be another revenue stream and they could add BBM to it adding even more money :)
    • by Pieroxy ( 222434 )

      Why would you want to raise them from the grave? They'll be dead and buried before Ubuntu for smartphone is worth its weight in gold.

  • It would allow me to access the full capabilities of my handheld, instead of the crippled giveaway shite they now have.
    Their walled garden and practice of disabling Features and then charging monthly fees to enable them would end.

    The only way that would ever happen is if the whole industry shifted to an open model and they lost market share.
    Until someone comes along the an open plan and a competitive network, to get the ball rolling.

    I would gladly pay retail for my own handset and escape the crippled device

    • by sohmc ( 595388 )

      Verizon, et al (with the possible exception of Sprint) have a large enough market share that the small percentage of hackers (classical definition) won't make a dent in their bottom line. This is assisted by the high cost to enter the market. Unfortunately, unless there is some sort of apocalypse or some other technical catastrophic, this will require legislative solution.

      It's kind of ironic that the iPhone was successful for AT&T. Apple was the first company (at least I'm aware of) that told the car

  • If you've read /. recently, Linux users themselves will build their own Ubuntu phone with a raspberry pi.
    • by Pieroxy ( 222434 )

      The Pi is small, but still bigger than my phone. Specially with all the necessary accessories.

  • Taking bets on how soon someone posts a kickstarter project scam that promises nothing more then pairing a free OS to some POS handset and how many thousands of fools will pay $100 for a free T-Shirt and empty promises.

  • My answer to this one is the same as my response to the "who would buy RIM" question. There are lots of companies out there that currently manufacture PCs, laptops or commodity tablets but who don't manufacture phones (or not in any great quantity). I can see them as being the main target.

    Lenovo is one possibility. Acer ans Asus are others. Dell has tried and failed at phones before, and could be game for another attempt (and they have a history of selling Ubuntu devices). And the dozens of others, big and

  • But which company would actually build such a device?

    Amazon is a possibility if they don't want to have all of their eggs in the Android basket. They've proven they can manage manufacturing, and no one does distribution better.

  • Must say I'm inclined to agree with the article, for the very simple reason that I don't think the OS on a phone is a very good selling point.

    The selling point is what you can do with the phone. How it somehow makes life easier/better/more fun for you. Exactly what about Ubuntu (Phone Edition) is going to give it the edge over Android, iOS or even Blackberry OS 10?

  • I wouldn't build an Ubuntu anything. Too much Unity.

  • I look forward to CES 2014 when there's 200 devices demoing Ubuntu and Firefox OS.

  • We already have not less than four Linux ports to phones/tablets, with Android getting 99.9% of the market.
    The rest is somehow shared between WebOS, MeeGo and Boot2Gecko!
    The chances that Ubuntu really makes its way to the mobile phone market is the same as the ones for you to get the Higgs Boson in your microwave owen.
  • by Lehk228 ( 705449 ) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @02:03PM (#42464423) Journal
    Foxconn </thread>
  • There are lot of companies in places like China and Taiwan that are able to manufacture mobile devices. Because of Android's liberal licensing, a lot of these companies have churned out Android devices under brand names that you've never heard of. If Ubuntu software is equally or more liberally licensed, they will be more than happy to slap this free software on their devices and flood the market with them cheaply.

  • by jcdr ( 178250 ) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @02:16PM (#42464599)

    Don't panic. This is just an idea that passed in my head.

    Still, I would love this to happen...

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @05:00PM (#42466869)

    While Hewlett-Packard has flirted with smartphones in the past, most notably after its Palm acquisition, the company doesn't seem too focused on that segment at the moment.

    HP has a focus?

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