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Open source geeks of the world rejoice! Ubuntu will soon be available for smartphones courtesy of Canonical, the company founded by entrepreneur and space tourist Mark Shuttleworth, for the promotion and commercial support of free software projects. The OS is designed at challenging iOS and Android’s dominance in the space.
Ubuntu is selling the OS on an “immersive”, “less cluttered” design and a lack of Java overhead:
Ubuntu provides a fast and beautiful experience, even on inexpensive hardware. It doesn’t have the overhead of a Java virtual machine, so all core applications run at full native speeds with a small memory footprint. That gives the UI a luxurious, responsive feel without the requirement of premium hardware components.
The organisation also reckons that the OS will enable people to use higher end smartphones as PCs when docked. That’s not new and didn’t really work when Motorola tried it. Then again, Android was designed to mobile from the outset, while Ubuntu knows what it takes to build a decent desktop experience. Its claim therefore that “one app can have interfaces for phone and desktop” doesn’t exactly ring hollow.
Ubuntu isn’t alone in its quest to make a splash in the mobile OS wars though. BlackBerry is still holding strong in emerging markets and looks like it could be building the basis of some kind of comeback with BlackBerry 10. Windows Phone 8 devices are still very much the preserve of early adopters at the moment, but gosh it’s astonishingly beautiful. Firefox meanwhile is readying a web-based OS for release some time this year.
Whether it can make a serious dent in the market depends largely on whether it can convince manufacturers to adopt the OS, which uses the same drivers as Android. Among desktop users, Ubuntu’s always been a bit niche and favoured by those who enjoy being able to tailor-make their computing experience.
In the mobile world that void has been filled by custom Android ROMs, so Ubuntu’s path might not be easy. But, and this is a big but, if it gets everything right and delivers on all of its promises, it might just stand a chance.
The OS is set to be available some time in 2014.