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The ‘Mystery’ Bq Event Went Big on Android, Silent on Ubuntu

Few of us, save the most optimistic, were expecting today’s media event from Bq Readers to yield news of the first Ubuntu Phone.

As one of the two hardware partners Canonical is working with, the notion that we might have seen the first Ubuntu phone showcased was entirely truant from reality. But, as I noted in our earlier article, none of the teasers, much less the 2015 timeframe given by Bq’s deputy manager, suggested it was likely.

Wait! Don’t despair! There may be a silver lining…

So What Was Revealed?

Three devices, all running Android 5.0 Lollipop and all superbly designed:

  • ‘Aquaris 10’ – 10.1-inch Octa-core tablet, 2GB RAM, 16GB eMMC, IPS+Dragontrail display (€259.90)
  • ‘Aquaris 10 3G’ – 10.1-inch Octa-core tablet, 2GB RAM, 16GB eMMC, IPS+Dragontrail display & 3G (€299.90)
  • ‘Aquaris E5 4G’ – 5-inch smartphone, 64-bit quad-core Qualcomm CPU, 1GB RAM, 16GB eMMC (€219.90)

Cheap, powerful Android devices that make for compelling alternatives to “established” players like Acer, Samsung, et al. No surprise to learn that Bq is often referred to as the European Xiaomi; an upstart that gets what buyers want.

You might think the slate of devices unveiled today isn’t great news for Ubuntu but I think you’d be looking at this wrong.

Possible Future Ubuntu Devices?

‘Other Bq devices, like these new tablets, could be offered in Ubuntu versions’

The Bq Ubuntu Phone is, according to all that we know, a rebadged, slightly tweaked version of the company’s Aquaris E4.5 dual-SIM handset. If that handset sells well it could lead to other Bq devices, like these new tablets, being offered in Ubuntu versions.

There’s a thought, right?

Sadly I’ve not heard nor seen any evidence that suggests that’s planned, but the precedent is there. The same goes for Meizu, who are taking their Android-powered MX4 handset and slapping Ubuntu on it to sell in China.

Might we see some truly custom-made hardware for Ubuntu? I don’t doubt it. But, right now, repurposed Android devices give Ubuntu what it needs: ready-to-go hardware and the underlying drivers that power it (Ubuntu uses a thin Android Hardware Abstraction Layer to make use of Android drivers).

Don’t Forget Jolla & Firefox OS

Ubuntu isn’t the only open-source alternative taking on the dominance of Android and iOS.

Jolla, the Finnish company born from the ashes of Nokia (during its N9/MeeGo era), is continuing to smash expectations with their crowdsourced Jolla Tablet. Packing powerful specs and the kind of design finesse the Finnish company is famed for, the Jolla Tablet will hit the market in 2015 running an improved version of the Android-compatible Sailfish OS.

As an active upstream contributor to the core open-source technologies powering its OS, Jolla’s success leads to benefits for Ubuntu and other Linux distributions — Jolla’s win is a win all round for #teamopensource.

Meanwhile Mozilla is continuing with its (noble, if sadly under appreciated) strategy of bringing open source, open standards and an open web to those others ignore. Firefox OS is already shipping on more than a dozen handsets across umpteen carriers in I-Forget-how-many-countries. Now the non-profit is gearing up for the release of its first Firefox Tablet — exciting stuff!

As for Ubuntu? Well, it might not be getting the same bespoke treatment on phones as either of the projects above but there is, arguably, a greater momentum behind it in the minds of the geek elite. And that, in the months to come, benefits it more.