Has Ubuntu bitten off more than it can chew?
This possibility appears to be driving a wedge between Google and the other Android handset makers.
“There’s growing concern around the power in the Android ecosystem being centralised around Google,” says Silber. “It’s making its own hardware, it’s controlling post-sale services, and that’s a strategic concern to operators and hardware manufacturers. We believe there’s room in the industry for another player, and we’re positioned well to become that other player.”
Mobile market observers agree that cracks are appearing between Google and its partners.
“There seems to be a big push for alternative OSes to Android: Firefox, [Samsung’s] Tizen, Jolla [born out of the ashes of the MeeGo project] and Ubuntu,” says Carolina Milanesi, research vice-president at Gartner. “Some vendors are looking at alternatives to differentiate their offering, so they’re not so dependent on Google.”
With carriers already involved with Firefox and Tizen, it will be hard to get traction for Ubuntu
However, Milanesi isn’t sure Ubuntu will be the one to bridge the gap. “With carriers already involved with Firefox and Tizen, it will be hard to get traction for Ubuntu.”
It isn’t only handset manufacturers Ubuntu must win over; app developers can also make or break a mobile OS. Silber claims Ubuntu has an inherent advantage over its up-and-coming rivals in the form of its thriving developer community.
“We’re confident in our ecosystem story in terms of apps and app stores – we have those things on the desktop, and have minimal work to make them appear on other form factors,” she claims, although whether a desktop app can be satisfactorily ported with “minimal work” is questionable.
However, Canonical isn’t naive enough to believe it can outgun its rivals, and is making concessions to developers in the Google camp already.
“We want app developers to care about Ubuntu as a platform,” says Silber, adding that the SDK for native Ubuntu app development has already generated a healthy interest. “Having said that, we’ve recognised that there’s a bunch of app developers out there on competing platforms. We intend to make it possible, and even easy, to make an existing Android app work on the Ubuntu platform.”
Ubuntu will also run apps developed in HTML5, another way to make it easier to port apps from rival OSes – although Silber insists Android apps and HTML5 support aren’t a safety net in case it can’t convince enough developers to write native Ubuntu code.
“Both [native apps and HTML5] are important; we don’t think of HTML5 as a fallback. The notion of having your favourite apps on the left-hand side [of the screen]: those could be HTML5 web apps or native apps there, and to the user they look the same.”
Losing the heartland?
If, even by its own admission, Ubuntu faces an uphill battle for acceptance on televisions, smartphones and tablets, it’s also facing challenges on more familiar territory: the PC.
Disclaimer: Some pages on this site may include an affiliate link. This does not effect our editorial in any way.