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Ubuntu Phone Coming to the Developing World

Ubuntu’s potential in markets like China and India is difficult to discern

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Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Canonical, revealed his plan to release a version of Ubuntu software for smartphones. Shuttleworth aims to target developing countries and believes Ubuntu will have an easy transition into these markets due to the software’s brand recognition in these countries.

Ubuntu’s potential in markets like China and India is difficult to discern. While Mr. Shuttleworth’s claim that 30% of Chinese PC’s are shipped with the Ubuntu software is factually accurate, the Ubuntu software on these computers is often quickly replaced by pirated copies of Microsoft Windows. In addition to Ubuntu’s questionable brand recognition, smartphone competition in developing countries is predicted to grow quickly over the next two years. Intel just announced two days ago that the company would releasing a smartphone chip aimed at the same markets Shuttleworth hopes to capture. As new contenders continue to enter the smartphone market in developing countries, Google has been quietly gaining a strategic foothold in the African and Chinese markets as low cost Android phones continue to gain popularity.

ubuntu-phone-mockup

The Ubuntu mobile software, like its OS for desktops, will be open source and built around the kernel Google created for its Android software. At a press conference in Las Vegas, Canonical, maker of Ubuntu, demonstrated the mobile software operating on a Galaxy Nexus. With Ubuntu’s smartphone software, users will see a mix of old and new. Ubuntu mobile OS has kept some familiar Android features such as the sideways sweeping gestures and the system status icons including battery life, connection, and volume on the right side of the notification bar. The Ubuntu software also offers some nice surprises like larger App icons and thumb gestures that access content and active app switching.  The Ubuntu Phone is expected to be released in late 2013 and will be preloaded on Android phones.. Phones will ship with both Chromium and Firefox browsers and run Linux native apps written in QML and web apps written in HTML5, CSS, and Javascript.

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Bob Gourley writes on enterprise IT. He is a founder and partner at Cognitio Corp and publsher of CTOvision.com

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