The first Ubuntu smartphones are coming in 2014, and they’ll be manufactured by European designer bq and Chinese phone maker Meizu.

Canonical and Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth says additional details will be available at Mobile World Congress, although he implied that Meizu’s phone will basically be a version of the Meizu MX3 running Ubuntu instead of Android.

Ubuntu Touch

Canonical and Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth says the first two partners were selected thanks to their expertise in breaking into markets. Bq has a reputation for designing high-end devices in Europe, while Meizu is becoming a big name in the Chinese market… and has plans to go global soon.

Canonical introduced Ubuntu for phones a little over a year ago, and the company has been releasing public beta builds for installation on Google Nexus phones and tablets since then. But so far you haven’t been able to buy a phone that comes preloaded with Ubuntu software.

At this point, Ubuntu for phones and tablets is a touchscreen-friendly, Linux-based operating system designed to run mobile apps rather than desktop Linux apps. But eventually the platform could let you run full desktop-style apps on your phone — Canonical says that the ultimate goal is for Ubuntu’s desktop and phone operating systems to be one operating system, sharing about 95 percent the same code.

One day you could be able to use your phone as a phone while on the go, then attach it to a docking station to run desktop apps with a keyboard, mouse, and monitor.

For now, the team has been focusing on attracting developers to its new mobile platform.

Canonical will be showing off Ubuntu phones and tablets at Mobile World Congress during the last week of February and while the big news right now is the imminent launch of Ubuntu phones. Shuttleworth says tablets fit more into its traditional PC mold.

Shuttleworth clearly has a vested interest in promoting Ubuntu as an open alternative to Google Android, but when asked for his thoughts on rival Tizen, which is backed by Samsung and Intel, he had some pretty harsh words. He says Tizen looks like less of a competitor today than 6 months ago, after facing many delays. Ultimately, he says, he finds it “highly unlikely that Tizen will be adopted by any manufacturer, or shipped by any carrier.”

While Ubuntu is open source software, Shuttleworth says Canonical’s business model for the platform involves charging device makers a license fee and generating revenue from app store sales (which will be shared with carrier and manufacturer partners).

Canonical says the first Ubuntu phones will be available for purchase online from bq, Meizu, and

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4 replies on “Meizu, bq to launch Ubuntu smartphones in 2014”

  1. About time! Hoping for a dock accessory of some type to turn it into a mobile desktop and HDMI out…

    Only reason I havent bothered messing around with Ubuntu on a Nexus is because of the lack of HDMI. If niethre of the phones have hdmi, I won’t be in the market, but I’ll be pretty sad.

  2. If there isn’t a universal mobile/desktop app, are you able to run a desktop app while not docked? For example, I want to run the desktop version of Firefox or Chrome because some sites just don’t work well on mobile browsers including the mobile versions of Firefox and Chrome. Of course, it’d be nice to have a pointer of some sort to make it easier to use like a Wacom stylus or an integrated optical thumb mouse.

  3. Hoping for a decent performing terminal friendly slider. If that happens then I’ll import one as a UMPC.

    1. I’ve been looking for slider Linux UMPC (not Android) for a while. With Bay Trail, I was hoping for some to come out but, so far, only 8″ tablets have come out. The ASUS Vivotab Note 8 seems to be the best so far with its stowable Wacom stylus. I’m currently planning on getting that once it supports booting 64-bit UEFI compatible Linux distros or Linux distros s create UEFI compatible 32-bit images. I’d prefer a 32-bit OS due to only 2 GB of RAM and I don’t run any software that would get a noticeable speed up from 64-bit operations.

      If an Ubuntu phone with a good slide out keyboard is released then I may try to import it into the US instead of getting the ASUS. Of course, it hopefully has good desktop performance. I’ve used a Utilite with a quad core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A9 and it was not adequate for my tastes. I hope newer ARM chips perform MUCH better.

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