Why Ubuntu Smartphones Could Make Lots of Sense

by Ostatic Staff - Nov. 01, 2011

Yesterday, I covered the news that Canonical is very focused on bringing Ubuntu to new platforms, including smartphones, tablets and devices. Since then, many writers have served up analysis on the topic, especially when it comes to Ubuntu arriving on smartphones. Some analysts believe the idea could make sense for Canonical, while others feel that the company may be biting off more than it can chew. While my post yesterday noted that Canonical may be focusing on too many markets, it may be a very good idea for Ubuntu to spread out to phones.

There is no doubt that there is still room in the smartphone market for an open source competitor to Android.  Think about it. In March of 2009--not long ago--everyone was convinced that Android had stalled, and might not have much promise at all.  In the history of operating systems, did Apple throw in the towel after Microsoft had a little over a year of success with Windows? Did the whole Linux community throw in the towel after that brief spurt of success from Microsoft? No and no. The Mac OS and Linux have gone onto their own successes in the ensuing years. It is a tremendous fallacy that only one company or organization--or two, for that matter--can dominate a large technology market.

Ubuntu is a lightweight, clean OS that can translate to smartphones well, and many applications for it could be quickly ported to mobile phone versions. For that matter, other Linux distros could make sense on smartphones as well.

As GigaOM noted in its analysis of Canonical's smartphone plans, Google's acquisition of Motorola will shake things up in the phone market. GigaOM quoted Mark Shuttleworth, speaking at Ubuntu Developer Summit:

"The Google-Motorola deal changes everything,” Shuttleworth said while acknowledging the tough road ahead. 'The notion that [the mobile OS status quo] is a done deal has some merit and we don’t have a mobile product today but the level of interest is high . . . and there is an underlying hunger both in the industry at large and in the open-source, free software world for leadership in this regard,' he said."

Indeed, many current makers of Android handsets are going to have to reconsider their strategies as Google itself becomes a big player in Android handsets. The time may be ripe for an open source competitor to Android, and Ubuntu is not a platform that is short of friends.

Canonical should work to stay focused on markets it can do well in, and cannot focus on all markets. However, if it can quickly deliver an Ubuntu-based phone platform and a viable App Store, smartphones could become a new frontier for the company.