Seth Heringer: Why Ubuntu Smartphones Won’t Take Off

Ubuntu smartphones have some interesting features, but they won’t possibly compete in the mobile marketplace. Our Seth Heringer explains. — The smartphone marketplace is in desperate need of a makeover. We need something new, something to shake the cobwebs off mobile design. Oh, how I wish an Ubuntu-based smartphone could be that product. But it won’t be. It can’t be.

It’s a bummer that neither Apple iOS nor Google Android has come up with any true innovation of late.

Apple iOS’s icon grid already is looking stale. Matias Duarte of webOS fame hasn’t managed to solve Android’s many issuesAnd even with their resources, Microsoft and Blackberry aren’t effectively competing.

That’s just one reason why I doubt Ubuntu smartphones will fare any better against Android and Apple iOS-based smartphones. 

It’s a damned shame. There are some interesting features in the Ubuntu mobile set. System designers replaced most buttons with swipe gestures.

And Ubuntu phones will use the full Ubuntu operating system when connected to a keyboard, mouse and monitor. That’s one of just a handful of new tricks Ubuntu offers. Too bad there aren’t more.

There is a handy bar on the left side of the screen, for example, that displays your 10 most-used apps. It also lets you adjust the settings on any screen by tapping the status icons located at the top of the screen. Unfortunately, docking isn’t as much fun as it sounds and is unlikely to draw any more support than the Motorola Atrix smartphone-docking station combo did. Ubuntu’s implementation is superior, but any docking feature is likely to sink in a market that’s drowning in mobile devices and accessories.

And sadly, that’s just the first of Ubuntu’s smartphone problems.


For one thing, mass market appeal for Ubuntu-based phones simply isn’t there. Think about it — the average user doesn’t walk into a store hoping to find a smartphone that runs a version of Linux and can turn into a computer. With the exception of geeks like myself, most people just want access to the latest apps. They want music and video. They want simplicity.

Linux is a complex operating system, and the mass market is barely aware of its existence.

Developers aren’t interested in building apps for platforms that lack mass appeal. Even well-designed smartphones can’t compete without a strong ecosystem. Ubuntu smartphones will most-likely be victims of that catch-22.

Which is exactly why Microsoft and Blackberry are actually paying people to create apps for their mobile devices. Unfortunately, newcomers like Ubuntu don’t have the resources for that kind of incentive. As a result, Ubuntu’s apps and products will languish in an inadequate ecosystem, and be unable to compete with more-established providers.

Image credits: Ubuntu

Seth Heringer is a senior editor at Meet him on our homepage at https://anewdomain.net2012/02/27/meet-anewdomain-senior-editor-seth-heringer/


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