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So after a few days of Canonical’s Ubuntu Site playing out a countdown teaser the Ubuntu team through Mark Shuttleworth have announced an Ubuntu Phone. A phone less about Ubuntu and more about the Interface.
In a bold move today Ubuntu have announced plans to move forward with an Ubuntu Phone which it is touting the interface is the difference here.
This is a big statement in a marketplace which has been owned by Apple and Google for the last 3 to 4 years and with big names like Palm and Blackberry both huge innovators in the smartphone marker having taken a huge battering in the last few years. For Canonical to come out today with an announcement for a phone is interesting to say the least.
The obvious thing to do would have been to come out with a Tablet, this is the direction the industry appears to be turning and Unity Ubuntu’s interface is so ready for touch its unbelievable so why a phone why now?
Looking over Ubuntu’s Phone webpage the onus seems to be very much on the phone interface, display size and doing things a different way. Different to IOS and Android anyway.
Designed to make all your phone content easier to access and your apps more immersive – every edge has a specific purpose, making all your apps, content and controls instantly accessible, without navigating back to the home screen every time.
Reading the design page is seems Canonical are taking a huge bite out of the Windows Phone 8 philosophy and this is why this gamble might just pay off. This and the potential of this OS being free as it seems implied that you’d be able to “hack” this onto some selected devices.
While Apple and Google might well own the Smartphone world right now, it’s not by mistake that Windows Phone 8 is doing so well with its “different” way of doing things. Canonical seem to be more aware Windows Phone 8 than IOS which hasn’t made any changes to ints core interface since it was first introduced and is starting to look a bit old now in this high pressure fast paced market. The iPhone (and to a lesser extent Android) is the phone your Mum and Grandparents would now have and be happy with and thats not cool.
Another similarity with WP8 seems to be the thinking that the OS on the phone is the same as the OS on the Desktop and while it can be argued under the hood IOS and OSX are not so different app development seems to tell another story there.. The core Windows Phone 8 kernel is the same as the Desktop Windows 8 kernel according to the Ubuntu Phone page there is an inference that an Ubuntu App which works on the Desktop will “just work” on the Phone as well. This pushes the Windows system idea just that little bit further.
Native apps are blazingly fast, taking advantage of the full capabilities of the phone’s processor and graphics hardware. And a mobile SDK does most of the work to give you that gorgeous, distinctive Ubuntu look and feel.
If this is the case then Canonical are entering the race with a huge App store of Opensource and Commercial applications with some big vendors sitting up and taking notice over the last few years like Citrix, VMware and IBM.
The last and possibly most interesting paragraph in the design page however from a sysadmin point of view is the reference to business.
Run local Ubuntu apps and remote Windows apps on a secure docked phone – the new thin client of choice. Your Ubuntu phone can be managed with standard enterprise Ubuntu management tools that also handle servers, cloud infrastructure and desktops. Secure your infrastructure using Ubuntu’s browser and email client, delivering your legacy Office apps from your data centre.
Business needs a replacement to the Blackberry as MDM’s for IOS and Android are not delivering to users what users want, instead delivering what the IT department wants because there is limited scope in what can be delivered to the user and no room for compromise. If Ubuntu for Android is also delivered as part of this package (and looking at the phone spec’s it may well be) then Canonical may be onto something which could have Microsoft, Google and Apple all playing catchup in business. You already know you spend most of your life on the phone, why not just spend all of it and dock the phone and use it as a computer. The IT dept is happy everything is locked down, access to Windows via Remote Desktop/Citrix an easily controlled app store..
All in all as i said at the start from a users perspective this is a bold move into a tough market by Canonical however times (and Smartphones) are a changing and maybe there is a place for the Unity based phone.
With all this interface goodness and possible innovation not withstanding it’s also good to see what can happen with Linux when someone takes charge and puts some focus in its development team.