Canonical was founded by Mark Shuttleworth in 2004, and over the past decade the company has made many innovations in the area of desktop computing with its Ubuntu distribution of Linux. Shuttleworth announced in 2011 that Ubuntu was going to enter the mobile market, and it launched a developer version of Ubuntu Touch in 2013. Currently, Canonical is about to launch a major Ubuntu-based phone with Chinese manufacturer Meizu in China and Europe. The company has come a long way. But Ubuntu Touch is still only a blip on the radar says Toby Wolpe in ZDNet.
As a major Chinese manufacturer launches a new Ubuntu-based smartphone that's also bound for Europe, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth this week conceded that the odds are stacked against the Linux-based OS succeeding in the role of phone-cum-desktop PC.
But Ubuntu has a bright future in the Internet of Things (IoT), according to Shuttleworth.
We had this vision some time ago for lining up your phone and tablet and PC experiences so that they could be a single device. People thought that was nuts. But Microsoft's saying the same thing - maybe not so nuts, after all? Our implementation of that is quite a bit more elegant than Windows 8...
Shuttleworth says 2015 will be the launch year of the Ubuntu phone that also functions as a desktop. Microsoft has since revealed its similar plans, at its BUILD conference, with its Continuum feature, which lets Windows Phones work in a similar fashion when connected to a PC monitor. But Ubuntu's advancements might go far beyond the phone says Shuttleworth.
The interplay between these things is really rich and really interesting. I understand why people say, 'It's kind of crazy - what are you doing, making a phone?'. But look at all the amazing things that have come from it... If you take the GUI [graphic user interface] out of that phone experience, what did we have to do? We have to get that small to fit on a phone. We had to get it secure, we had to isolate applications from each other and we had to make it possible to update first time, every time remotely, without any kind of management software. All of those underpinnings are now our IoT [Internet of Things] platform as well. The latest greatest switch is running Ubuntu. What is it? It's our mobile operating system without the phone UI but it's got all the same properties...
Ubuntu now is building an entire platform for the IoT, and all it needs is to convince developers to help build the ecosystem.
We're in IoT in a way we never could have been. We don't have the economics for it, or the tools for it, or the developer engagement for it, or the mindset for it. There we are. All we had to do was take the GUI out of it... We've got robots with snappy Ubuntu, we've got switches with Snappy Ubuntu, we've got cars that are going to be shipping with Snappy Ubuntu. All that is our mobile platform, just without the GUI. We could never have predicted that four years ago.
Shuttleworth says the IoT is interesting because it brings the intelligence of computing to mundane devices such as land lines. The adoption of Ubuntu Touch by Meizu is an easy avenue for Canonical to "break out of China" - particularly as Android becomes more locked down by Google. Ubuntu (and Linux) has a chance to be the platform that connects all our devices together and, as previously reported, it's working with GE, Acer, and Microsoft. Canonical and GE announced the Chillhub, which was the first ever Ubuntu smart-refrigerator. It's working with Acer, Microsoft, and DataArt to launch Ubuntu into the big data market. 2015 might be the year Canonical finally gets a foothold in mobile and the IoT.