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Back in December, the big news in the Ubuntu Touch world was that the first Ubuntu Linux smartphones would ship in February 2015. Now, the even bigger news is that it's actually happening.
February 9, 2015
Back in December, the big news in the Ubuntu Touch world was that the first Ubuntu Linux smartphones would ship in February 2015. Now, the even bigger news is that it’s actually happening. Starting Feb. 9, BQ will begin shipping phones powered by Canonical‘s open source OS.
As BQ indicated late last year, the Ubuntu phones will be based on its Aquaris E4.5 hardware. They’ll ship unlocked and feature dual-SIM card support, which will no doubt appeal to jet-setting Ubuntu fans who are constantly traveling between different countries—or, at least, to users who want to be able to have two phone numbers on the same device.
Unfortunately for Ubuntu fans, there are a couple of caveats to the news. First, although the smartphones should work in any country with a proper SIM card installed, they’re going on sale, for now, only in the European market. That will make it harder, though not impossible, to get hold of one if you live elsewhere.
The Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition will also, for now, be available only via “flash sales” on BQ.com. Canonical and BQ will be announcing the sales on social media (specifically, @Ubuntu and @bqreaders on Twitter, as well as Ubuntu’s Google+ and Facebook pages), so purchasing one will not be as simple as checking out online at your leisure.
Canonical and BQ no doubt hope this approach will help build excitement about the phones. But it’s also a bit like requiring your users to tune in to your radio station all day waiting for the magic word so they can be entered to win a free cruise to the Moluccas or wherever.
At any rate, this news is a big step for Canonical. The company has been working to establish a foothold in the mobile market for quite some time to “converge” its open source operating system across different hardware platforms. It set its sights on Ubuntu smartphones specifically almost a year ago, when it announced deals with BQ and Meizu (which also reportedly has an Ubuntu phone coming soon) to deliver the devices by the end of 2014.
The delivery has come just a little late—or, actually, remarkably punctually, given how delayed many other open source releases tend to be. It’s also occurring at the height of the Aquarius zodiac sign, which I suppose bodes well, or something. But the fact that it has come at all is what matters. Ubuntu has now gone somewhere it’s never been before.
Christopher Tozzi started covering the channel for The VAR Guy on a freelance basis in 2008, with an emphasis on open source, Linux, virtualization, SDN, containers, data storage and related topics. He also teaches history at a major university in Washington, D.C. He occasionally combines these interests by writing about the history of software. His book on this topic, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” is forthcoming with MIT Press.
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