November 14, 2012
Ubuntu on smartphones remains a totally theoretical proposition. But that hasn’t stopped Canonical from releasing a video showcasing all the cool things that Ubuntu could do if it did run on phones. Is the company getting ahead of itself, or is this a sign that Ubuntu might finally be poised to make the jump to the mobile world?
The quirky, animated video sings the praises of Ubuntu for smartphones in a quick, two-minute clip:
As the narrator points out, running Ubuntu on your phone would theoretically allow you to do lots of cool things that aren’t possible with most existing smartphones. Chief among them is powering an entire desktop PC setup — minus the actual PC — with your phone by connecting it to a monitor and other peripheral devices.
The video also suggests that as an operating system designed for general purpose computing, Ubuntu is better positioned than Android or iOS to meet the needs of people who who want to use their phones to get real work done, not just send texts or make calls — although Ubuntu will be able to do that too, we’re promised.
Fantasy and Reality
This is all great stuff. The only problem is that it’s totally fictional.
Ubuntu doesn’t currently work on any phone. The closest it comes is the Nexus 7 tablet, the device on which Canonical very recently managed to get Ubuntu up and running. Making Ubuntu compatible with generic smartphones would require loads more work. It’s an achievement that remains beyond the horizon for the time being.
And even if Ubuntu could be installed on phones, the Linux world currently lacks the applications for making it useful. Ubuntu might be able to place calls and send texts in an animated cartoon, but in real life, even if the hardware support were there, a lot of application and interface development would still be required to make Ubuntu phones usable for most people.
This isn’t to say that Ubuntu will never run on phones, or to deny the seriousness of Canonical’s expressed intention to make it do so. But I wonder whether the company might be setting itself up to disappoint users by drawing attention to a concept that, by all available indications, remains very distant from becoming reality.
If that’s the case, though, the damage will probably be minimal. The video currently has only a few hundred views, and its circulation will likely be limited to the geeks who seek it out because they’re already excited about Ubuntu. This may be exactly what Canonical intends as it seeks to fuel enthusiasm for an Ubuntu phone until it actually releases one.
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