When Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth announced today that the team behind the popular Ubuntu Linux operating system would be dropping the Unity desktop environment and going back to GNOME starting in 2018, I wondered what it means for the Ubuntu Phone project.

Apparently what it means is that Canonical is giving up on Ubuntu Phone.

Ars Technica reports that Canonical is ending all work on phones, tablets, and “convergence,” which was a project to make the same operating system run across those platforms as well as desktop and notebook computers.

In other words, if you want to buy a phone that can also work as a desktop computer, you’re going to have to look elsewhere. Interestingly, while Canonical was one of the first companies to focus on bringing that vision to life, several other companies have made progress in recent years.

Microsoft’s Continuum for phone lets some Windows 10 Mobile devices connect to a keyboard, mouse and display for use as a sort of limited-use desktop PC. And the new Samsung Galaxy S8 line of Android phones support an optional DeX docking station that also lets you run apps in a user interface optimized for big screens.

Chinese startup Jide is also developing a custom version of Android for phones that will look like a smartphone OS on a mobile device and a desktop OS when connected to an external display.

A handful of phones and tablets have shipped with Ubuntu software over the past few years, and you can install the operating system on some third-party devices. But it’s still pretty rough around the edges and lacks many of the features found in more popular mobile operating systems such as Android and iOS.

A few years ago, it looked like Canonical was going to be just one of many companies looking to give Google and Apple some competition in the smartphone OS space. But now Mozilla’s Firefox OS is dead. Ubuntu phone is dead. And Jolla’s Sailfish OS is still under development, but the company behind the OS is on shaky ground.

I guess there’s still Samsung’s Tizen… but it still only ships on a few phones, and there are still a lot of issues it needs to overcome to become truly competitive.


Support Liliputing

Liliputing's primary sources of revenue are advertising and affiliate links (if you click the "Shop" button at the top of the page and buy something on Amazon, for example, we'll get a small commission).

But there are several ways you can support the site directly even if you're using an ad blocker* and hate online shopping.

Contribute to our Patreon campaign


Contribute via PayPal

* If you are using an ad blocker like uBlock Origin and seeing a pop-up message at the bottom of the screen, we have a guide that may help you disable it.

Subscribe to Liliputing via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 9,504 other subscribers

5 replies on “Ubuntu for phones and tablets is dead”

  1. Unity become a power-hungry monster. It’s good they killed it. Though I use Unity in multi-monitor configs, because it’s the DE, where I have no additional problems, to use different displays with different resolutions and change their’s place by program not by using some text editor like nano for text configs, where I can shoot my leg easy enough. All another DEs, especially LXDE and XFCE just are not working, it’s seems their’s developers thinks about multi-monitors systems are exceptionally rare and therefore don’t spend much time to make them useful in those cases.

  2. What the above article fails to mention is that Ubuntu’s much vaunted X server replacement rival to Red Hat sponsored Wayland is also dead.

    From the Ars Technica article —

    “we have no real choice but to use Wayland when Ubuntu switches to GNOME by default,” Hall told Ars. “Using Mir simply isn’t an option we have.”

    My guess is that the whole issue of convergemce, Unity, and Mir is being told backwards and this is my hypothesis.

    Canonical desperately needs to become profitable and since desktops were never going to be profitable, servers are possibly break even to slightly profitable but Red Hat is already too well established and there there is SuSE competition as well, that the big hope was smartphones and tables. Problem is though that Ubuntu phones have a very very limited appeal. So if there not going to be any profit made with theat type of product, there is just no point in spending any more money out on Unity and Mir development, hence the decition to switch to Gnome desktop and Wayland.

    This debacle really does raise the question once again, how is Canonical going to start making significant profits and just how mucjh longer is Mark Shuttleworth prepared to continue with the project, technically a great success with some significant innovations (even if not popularly appreciated), but not a real money earner.

    Is there a danger that the headline in a few years time is going to be, not just

    “Ubuntu {some new project or other} is dead”

    but simply

    “Ubuntu is dead”

  3. Is a shame, the consept of ubuntu phone is good and unity is simple and functional (besides gnome 3 is a incongruent mess).
    Now is official Apple is the only smartphone and mobile os maker

  4. I don’t see anyone as wrong in it all.
    I think it was a reasonable decision several years ago to think that would be the future and that they had a shot to beat a path to it with a lot of effort.
    At the same time I don’t think it’s wrong for them to look at it from here and decide it is not going to be like that and to continue the effort is not worth it.
    It was a good try, you know. Hold your head up high and hit the showers and move on to what looks promising from here.

Comments are closed.