The makers of the popular Ubuntu Linux operating system say the first phones running Ubuntu will launch in 2014. According to CNET, Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth says the first devices will be high-end phones, but he’s not ready to reveal the name of the device maker yet.
Update: European phone designer BQ and Chinese device maker Meizu will launch the first two Ubuntu phones in 2014.
Canonical has been working on a touchscreen-friendly version of Ubuntu designed to work on phones and tablets for over a year. The company started showing off Ubuntu Phone OS in January, and the following month the company started offering pre-release builds that users could install on Google Nexus phones and tablets, or port to run on other devices.
But up until now, if you’ve wanted to run Ubuntu on a phone, you’ve had to install it yourself. Canonical did try to raise funds to build its own phone, but the crowd-funding project fizzled out before it could reach the ambitious $32 million goal. So instead the company’s going back to plan A and working with hardware partners.
At least one company plans to offer Ubuntu phones in 2014, and Canonical is reportedly in high-level talks with at least 4 more.
Right now Ubuntu Touch looks a bit like the desktop version of Ubuntu, and shares some code — but don’t expect to be able to run full desktop apps on your phone at launch. Instead Canonical is working with developers to create mobile apps for the platform.
Eventually you may be able to get a phone that can run desktop apps… but you may have to connect it to a docking station and external display to do that. The idea is that you could have mobile apps on the go and desktop apps when you want to use your phone as a full PC. That way developers of popular Linux apps like LibreOffice and GIMP wouldn’t have to completely overhaul their apps by giving them a user interface that works with small screens.
But at launch, Ubuntu will have to compete head-to-head with Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and other new mobile platforms such as Tizen, Firefox OS and Sailfish.