The first Ubuntu smartphones will launch later this year, Mark Shuttleworth has confirmed.
Two manufacturers, China based Meizu and Spanish OEM BQ Readers, are both set to release Ubuntu-powered handsets at some point ‘within 2014′.
Devices made by more established manufacturers with ‘household names’ are, we’re told, expected to follow 2015.
Bq Readers are a relatively small device maker, while Meizu currently lacks a substantial presence in the UK or the US.
‘Canonical say they explicitly ruled out partnering with established mobile manufacturers’
But it’s precisely for this reason that Mark Shuttleworth says Canonical opted to buddy up with them; it wants it critical first devices to be handled by ‘partners who are specialists at penetrating emerging markets’. This tactic, Shuttleworth explains, saw the company ’explicitly rule out‘ partnering with more established mobile manufacturers.
In a mobile space dominated by just two operating systems and a handful of handset manufacturers, such a tactically minded guerrilla approach could be what;s needed to break up an increasing entrenched, established and well ordered orthodoxy.
‘The Meizu handset is rumoured to be a re-purposed version of their latest 8-core Android phone’
For all the openness about strategy, Canonical are keeping the details of the devices close to their chest – for now, at least. No pricing information or timescale to launch has yet been given, though we’re likely to learn more once the Mobile World Congress event kicks off next week.
Shuttleworth said that both phones will be initially only be available in select countries.
The Meizu handset is strongly rumoured to be a re-purposed version of company’s latest Android device, the Meizu MX3. This 5.1-inch mobile is powered by an 8-core ARM Cortex 15 CPU, paired with a 3-core GPU and 2GB of RAM.
With Ubuntu enjoying a lot of success in China right, and one of the nations largest telecom networks already a backer of the mobile OS, it’s not too much of a leap to imagine that this handset will launch there first.
The BQ Ubuntu Phone will take advantage of ‘dual sim’ technologies’
Little is know about the BQ device other than that it will take advantage of ‘dual sim’ technologies and, again, be based on an existing Android-powered phone.
As existing devices from both companies can already be bought globally, and with Bq the biggest seller of unlocked smartphones in Spain, it should be relatively easy for those outside of launch territories to get hold of one.
Asked if he thought it was “realistic” to expect Ubuntu to beat Blackberry or Microsoft into third place, Shuttleworth said he’s looking for Ubuntu ‘to be the open alternative to Android’, adding that he expects ‘people who would consider buying an Android device… would consider buying an Ubuntu device’.
“Our [OEM] partners appreciate that our business model is straightforward; we charge [them] a fee per device; and we share revenues from the app store with them”.
Incentives from app store sales or not, many remain sceptical as to whether Ubuntu can truly find a place in a market where even companies like Microsoft, with their bottomless pockets, are struggling to make inroads.
‘Shuttleworth described Tizen as a fading force that’s unlikely to ship on phones’
They will be hoping that the disruptive nature of Ubuntu Touch as a convergent device – a PC in your pocket, if you will – as being ‘key’ to establishing share. Apple’s recent stockpiling of Sapphire glass screens, the material proposed for the ill-fated Ubuntu Edge concept phone, and the choice of phrase of the A7 chip as ‘desktop class’, are, Mark said, interesting choices to note.
Of their open-source competitors Tizen was described as a “fading force” that Canonical now views as ‘much less of a competitor than it was 6 months ago’.
Last year Mark Shuttleworth claimed ‘household brands’ were interested in shipping Ubuntu Touch, though Canonical Community Manager later stated that he thought ’no major OEM’ would ship devices running it during 2014.