A new Ubuntu mobile platform from Canonical has its first hardware partner. The unnamed partner means that Canonical expects to release one or more high-end smartphones based on the open-source OS sometime next year.
The announcement was made in an interview by Canonical founder and head Mark Shuttleworth with CNET. He also said that discussions are under way with at least four other well-known brands.
The platform in question is Ubuntu Touch OS, a mobile version of the Linux-based open-source system that can also provide a full desktop when the smartphone is connected to a monitor. While Canonical's mobile OS was announced earlier this fall, the company has not indicated it had a hardware partner until now.
Canonical does not claim Android compatibility for its platform. Instead, it says Android developers can readily develop for Ubuntu, just as they develop for various flavors of Android, plus apps built for their Touch OS will run on smartphones and PCs running the OS.
The company did make an effort to raise $32 million dollars in funding on the Indiegogo crowd-sourced site for its Ubuntu Edge series of smartphones, but did not reach its goal. The Ubuntu Edge series are based on a different Ubuntu mobile platform, Ubuntu for Android, than Touch OS. Like Touch OS, Ubuntu for Android can also operate as a desktop or laptop computer when the smartphone is connected to such peripherals as a monitor and keyboard.
Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, pointed out that "there are multiple ways to attack the market" if you want to become the third, fourth or fifth major mobile platform after Android, iOS and possibly Windows or BlackBerry.
He noted that the Firefox operating system, from the makers of the popular browser, is "trying to hit the low end" in emerging countries, while Ubuntu's strategy at this point appears to focus more on the high end.
This is "an extremely tough" challenge, he said, and requires that Ubuntu offer a different value proposition, which they are in that their OS "is a combination of mobile and computer" that can be used with both platforms.
In addition to Firefox and Ubuntu, ex-Nokia personnel have launched a Finland-based start-up called Jolla, which has developed a Sailfish OS mobile platform.
There's also the Tizen OS from the world's largest mobile device maker, Samsung. It was originally developed in conjunction with Intel. Like other mobile OSes, Tizen, also based on Linux, is being promoted for other devices besides mobile ones, including refrigerators, TVs and smart cars. Samsung has made several substantial moves recently to push Tizen along, such as the recent formation of nearly three-dozen partnerships with content providers and the offering of $4 million in awards to developers who create the best Tizen apps.