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Canonical announces Ubuntu phones for release in 2014

Ubuntu on mobile

Canonical has revealed that the first Ubuntu smartphone devices from BQ and Meizu will be on show at next week's Mobile World Congress

Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth announced the first two manufacturers to release Ubuntu phones, both of which are set to have products on the market this year. The companies in question are India’s BQ and Chinese manufacturer Meizu. Pictures leaked earlier this year showed the Meizu MX3 phone running a mobile version of Ubuntu, a new version of which is slated for release this year, making it a likely hardware candidate for the operating system.

Canonical has yet to finalise the global markets in which the phones will appear, but Shuttleworth told us that “In principle, these devices will cover the globe in terms of radio technologies so we could launch in any market, but we’ve yet to map out the actual tactical approach.”

We reported last month on Canonical community manager Jono Bacon’s statement that we’d be unlikely to see a major manufacturer putting out an Ubuntu Touch device before 2015. While this was taken by many to mean that no Ubuntu phone would be forthcoming, Shuttleworth’s announcement today has turned that impression on its head, making it clear that Canonical is keen to put devices in customers’ hands.

He commented that the company “deliberately ruled out household names in favour of smaller, more tactical manufacturers”. It’s certainly a faster way to get a device to market quickly, but releases from bigger manufacturers still seem to be slated for 2015. This month, Vodafone is among those who’ve joined the Ubuntu Carrier Advisory Group, a forum that allows mobile operators to get involved with Ubuntu Phone’s development.

Meanwhile, there’s growing enthusiasm for the platform among app developers, with apps including VLC, GrooveShark, The Weather Channel, LastPass and Opera confirmed. Support for popular services such as Facebook is being developed within the Ubuntu community, while Evernote is building a native application for Ubuntu mobile platforms.

Engineering samples of the new Ubuntu Linux phones will be on show at next week’s Mobile World Congress event, along with a number of Ubuntu tablets. Shuttleworth notes that “shipping tablets isn’t as much of a milestone for us” and commented that “for us, the tablet market is an extension of the PC market”.

In a similar vein, Ubuntu on both phone and tablet platforms is very much an extension of Canonical’s desktop operating system. Currently “95% of code is the same as on PC”, but “as we move into production this will turn into 100%; we will converge those code bases”. It’s for this reason that the mobile version of the operating system will be called just Ubuntu – “and only Ubuntu”.

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