The Open Source Phones Are Upon Us

by Ostatic Staff - Feb. 14, 2013

In a 2010 post here on OStatic, I asked this question:  "Is It Too Late for an Open Source Challenge to Android?" And in a follow-up post a few weeks ago, I discussed the impending arrival of a slew of mobile phones based on Firefox OS and Ubuntu. Now, there are even more concrete signs that we are going to see heavy competition among open mobile operating systems this year. Not ony have Firefox OS-based phones arrived (seen above), but Ubuntu phones are coming faster than many people thought they would.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting, based on a conversation with Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth, that Ubuntu phones will ship in October. If you thought Ubuntu phones might only appeal to consumer fans of open source, the market for them looks much wider. As The Journal reports:

"The smartphones can be docked to larger displays, wirelessly connected to keyboards and other peripherals, and have Windows-based applications streamed to them from corporate servers. This would mean users could access all manner of corporate data through a single, pocket-sized device. 'You can share Windows apps to the phone desktop,' said Mr. Shuttleworth during a meeting in New York Tuesday."

These comments from Shuttleworth clearly point to a future for Ubuntu smartphones in businesses, and Shuttleworth has been focused on enterprises with his overall Ubuntu strategy for some time. Ubuntu's mobile OS is optimized for the Samsung Galaxy line of phones, which is a leader among lines of Android-based phones, so we're going to see Samsung placing some big bets on open source operating systems.

It also looks like application developers will get Canonical's mobile OS to tinker with later this month, so there will be some native applications available when these phones ship.

Meanwhile, there are reports that Samsung confirmed 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 in recent days but surely will be with one of the biggest players in smartphones backing it.

And, of course, Mozilla's plans for phones based on its open Firefox OS platform have turned into reality. You can check out early Firefox OS phones here, and developers are working on many apps for them.

So how welcome these new open mobile platforms will be in the smartphone market? Given the security concerns that most enterprises have, Canonical's intent to get Ubuntu phones in the hands of business users may not go as smoothly as planned. However, just look at the few short years that it took for Android to succeed. There are a lot of people who will welcome phones based on open standards and open source. These phones will be big news later this year.