I’ve been a loyal and – mostly – contented user of Ubuntu, the free open-source Linux-based OS produced by Canonical that’s one of the most popular Linux distributions available. And I have not been a casualty of the controversy and factional faceoff over its new Unity GUI – which I personally find both seamless and far more convenient to use than either Windows 7 or Windows 8. So it pains me to have to report that the Ubuntu Phone, planned to be both Canonical’s major foray into the mobile OS market and a big step forward for Linux on mobile devices, has yet again been postponed, according to a report in PC World, from an announced release date towards the end of this year to early 2015 – at the earliest.
According to Chris Hoffman at PC World, Canonical executives have confirmed to him that China’s Meizu and Spain’s Bq are still on track to launch the Ubuntu Phone, although various factors, including moves to refine the user interface and supply chain snags, have led to the delays. Other early reports speak of potential launch of a Bq Ubuntu Phone as early as February 2015 – but there is also plenty of speculation elsewhere that the delays could both be more protracted and call into question the viability of the entire project.
An Ubuntu Phone that did finally make it to market would at least have the benefits of a mature underlying OS, plus a well-developed ecosystem with plenty of apps available. However, Ubuntu and Linux in general does not excel at the kind of user-focused hassle-free experience that consumer device customers above all have come to expect, and there is no clarity on the prospects for the new platform, with third party competitors to Apple and Android in the smartphone/mobile stakes, such as Windows Phone or the Firefox OS, hardly transforming the mobile market. It would be a pity, perhaps, because without a transition to mobile or tablet devices, Ubuntu could be doomed to a steady marginalization in an increasingly trailing-edge desktop ghetto, while newer iterations of mobile OS devices, such as Android Wear, grab greater market share as well as the innovation high ground.