It was the proto-convergence story; the catalyst for Ubuntu’s encroachment into the world of smartphones; a union of the most popular Linux-based mobile operating system and the most popular Linux-based desktop operating system.
Now it seems that development of Ubuntu for Android (not to be confused with Ubuntu Touch) is at an end — that’s according to a recent bug report filed against the project sub-page of the Ubuntu website.
Canonical’s Matthew Paul Thomas states in a bug report lodged on Launchpad, the issue tracker for Ubuntu the project, including its websites:
“[The website] describes Ubuntu for Android as “the must-have feature for late-2012 high-end Android phones. Ubuntu for Android is no longer in development, so this page should be retired, along with [the features section].”
This bug report, which was initially restricted from public view, was quickly followed up by a comment from Canonical web developer Anthony Dillon:
Peter [Mahnke, web dev lead at Canonical] can you confirm with the business if this section is due to be retired.
Peter Mahnke’s reply makes the situation less clear:
“We do check if this and the tv page should be kept on the site. currently the answer is yes.”
Parsing the latter response it would appear that the pages will be kept around but that references to release dates will be removed (indeed, since starting this article, the website has been updated to remove the ‘2012’ text that triggered the bug report).
Yes, No, Don’t Know
Ubuntu for Android is a simple idea to grasp: when you use your phone on the go you’re running Android and when you dock it to a monitor, mouse and keyboard, it becomes a fully-fledged Ubuntu PC. Data would be shared and integrated between the operating systems, such as the address book, text messages and e-mail. Phone features, like making and receiving calls, would also be available from the desktop.
The whole dual-OS docking idea is an inspired one, so should we be surprised that Ubuntu for Android is being put out to pasture?
As recently as January of this year Canonical’s Community Manager Jono Bacon had said that the company “…absolutely expect to ship [Ubuntu for Android]” in the not-so-distant future. Bacon explained at the time: “[The] ‘connect to an external display’ thing is part of Ubuntu for Android – that’s a totally different thing [from Ubuntu Touch].”
Taking a step back from the Android-y project isn’t a surprising or unexpected move. To get into the hands of consumers requires a phone manufacturer to be involved from the get go so that specific modifications can be made. If no OEMs are yet interested in offering the hybrid OS solution on their devices then…well, there’s little point in continuing to develop it.
‘Android has evolved considerably since the first proof of concepts were demoed’
What’s more, Android has evolved considerably since the first proof of concepts were demoed, and Canonical’s ‘other’ pet mobile project, Ubuntu for Phones, has gone on to accrue huge success in bagging a set of launch partners.
With movement in one area but not the other, it would be perfectly understandable if Canonical did plan to consolidate development efforts into those that are more profitable and promising.
We have reached out to Canonical for clarification and will update this article when/if we receive a reply.
Update from Canonical
While Canonical has yet to reply to our request for comment they have given a response to Android Authority in which they confirm that the project is not currently in active development, or something they are ‘actively pushing’. They add that to take development forward will require a launch partner, something they do not currently have, and remain open to perusing the feature should an OEM step up.
Since publishing this article the bug report in question has been restricted from public view.