New Open Source Phones: Nearly Upon Us
In a 2010 post here on OStatic, I asked this question: "Is It Too Late for an Open Source Challenge to Android?" Now, of course, we know that there are several open source smartphone strategies in the works that will be coming to fruition this year. Mozilla is moving ever closer to delivering its first phones based on the Firefox OS platform, and urging developers to build apps. Meanwhile, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth maintains that Ubuntu phones will ship in the coming months, and early reviews of the Ubuntu Touch operating system are already arriving.
Ars Technica has reviewed what it calls a very early version of Ubuntu Touch, reporting:
"Today there are four devices onto which you can easily load Ubuntu Touch: the Galaxy Nexus, the Nexus 4, the Nexus 7, and the Nexus 10...A considerable amount of work has been done to port Ubuntu Touch to a smattering of other phones and tablets, the full list of which can be found on this Devices page...Ubuntu Touch is a bit BlackBerry 10-like in that it favors gesture-based navigation over buttons for basic interactions. Unlike iOS and Android, it has no static Home or navigation buttons on-screen or otherwise."
Overall, the foundation for Ubuntu Touch looks solid, and Canonical has made clear that it will be delivered for both smartphones and tablets, so it should make a splash later this year. October looks like the approximate time frame for delivery of finished products.
And, of course, Mozilla's plans for phones based on its open Firefox OS platform have turned into reality. We've reported on the early phones and the early markets for them, and you can try the latest version of the Firefox OS simulator now. Developers mean everything to the success of Mozilla's mobile operating system, and we'll see very shortly if compelling apps arrive for phones based on it.
Meanwhile, reports are still arriving about Samsung's plans to ship new Linux-based mobile devices based on the Tizen Linux platform later this year. Tizen is a mobile OS that was launched by the Linux Foundation and the LiMo Foundation in late 2011. It hasn't been talked about much recently but could become a big story with one of the biggest players in smartphones backing it.
We expect to see a lot of competition among phones based on open source platforms heating up in the second half of this year. Stay tuned.