Canonical kills its Ubuntu smartphone, tablet, convergence plans

Posted:
in iPhone edited April 2017
Canonical, the software support company that maintains Ubuntu Linux, has announced it is throwing in the towel on Ubuntu phones and tablets and ending work on Unity8--a concept it had hoped would create a "convergence" experience to enable its smartphones to act as a PC or smart TV.




Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of both Ubuntu and Canonical, noted in a blog posting today that "we will end our investment in Unity8, the phone and convergence shell," reverting back to the GNOME desktop in future versions of its Ubuntu desktop Linux.

The android of Android

In 2011, after Motorola showed off its Atrix 4G phone with a dock that allowed it to connect to a display and pretend to function as a conventional PC, Canonical announced ambitious plans to eventually support phones, tablets, TVs and "smart screens everywhere" in a future version of its Ubuntu Linux distribution.

Two years later it delivered its first developer edition of "Ubuntu Touch" for phones, aimed at replacing Android on select phones--particularly Google's Nexus models.

Writing for CNET, Richard Trenholm wrote of Ubuntu Touch--after seeing it demonstrated at World Mobile Congress--that "on first impression I'm hugely taken with Ubuntu Touch.

"It's elegant, thoughtful, and versatile, while remaining beautifully straightforward. Compared to the messy Android copycats Firefox OS and Tizen, it's by far the strongest potential rival to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. In fact, I prefer it to iOS, which long ago lost its shine, and heck, maybe even to Android, too. Fingers crossed that manufacturers and phone carriers get behind it, because I'd happily lay down my own cash for an Ubuntu Touch phone."

The next year Canonical showed off plans for Ubuntu TV at CES 2012, a project that never materialized. It appears that the company eventually hoped to have Ubuntu smartphones driving TV interfaces as an extension of its Atrix-like convergence concept.





Toward the end of 2013, Ubuntu attempted to raise $32 million in funding on crowdsourcing site Indiegogo to build an Ubuntu Edge phone (below), selling tiers of reservations that cost between $600 and $800. The phone aimed to convert into a PC when connected to an external display (above).

The project was canceled after reaching nearly $13 million in pledges. Canonical's Shuttleworth accused Apple of monopolizing the supply of sapphire screens that Ubuntu Edge expected to use.




Two years later, Spanish Android maker BQ and China's Meizu shipped the first commercial phones running Ubuntu in place of Android, albeit without attracting much interest from buyers, despite the focus on convergence.

Last year, a half decade after Canonical started work on smartphones, another enthusiastic reviewer, Jack Wallen of Tech Republic. wrote of the Meizu Pro 5 Ubuntu Edition, "many people have criticized Ubuntu Touch's laggy behavior. And while that is very much front and center on the Pro 5, I accepted that fact, simply because the platform is still in its youth."

The androids of Android androids

In 2015, Canonical's years-old convergence concept of turning a smartphone into a Linux PC--apparently inspired by Motorols'a ill-fated Atrix--was appropriated by Microsoft as "Continuum," an innovation of Windows 10 Phones that enabled them to act like a Windows PC, albeit like Ubuntu, they couldn't run actually run Windows software. Like Atrix and Ubuntu Touch, it didn't work out.





A year later, Microsoft partnered with Canonical to integrate a Linux subsystem into Windows 10 and to collaborate on cloud services.

Another year later, Samsung released its own innovation: DeX, a dock that turns its Galaxy S8 into a PC of sorts.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,779member
    A shame. Seemed like good tech.
    birko
  • Reply 2 of 17
    crowley said:
    A shame. Seemed like good tech.
    As a one time fan of Ubuntu, I feel that the writing has been on the wall for some time.
    If that Behmoth called Microsoft can't make it work properly then what chance does Canonical have? Answer = close to zero.
    It is a nice idea but this one size fits all has its limits with software just like it does with clothes.

    There were many who criticised Apple for not merging IOS and MacOS but give the dogs breakfast MS has made with W10 and not this decision then I think Apple were right. The sort of tight integration that is possible using iCloud makes merging less of an issue.
    That is not to say that something along these lines isn't possible, it clearly is but there are still problems.

    netmagewatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 17
    freeperfreeper Posts: 77member
    crowley said:
    A shame. Seemed like good tech.
    It wasn't. Canonical is the Ubuntu/Debian version of Red Hat I suppose. The problem is that as most enterprise Linux users prefer Red Hat, Canonical chose to focus on consumer users ... while still using Red Hat's open source business model. So while enterprise users are perfectly willing to pay huge amounts of money for what is essentially a free and community supported OS for support reasons, consumers had no reason to do the same. Ubuntu's first strategy was to try to get consumers, small businesses, schools etc. to switch from Windows to Ubuntu for PCs. There was a little avenue there, because Ubuntu still runs great on older hardware that performed poorly on Windows 7, and Ubuntu lacked the virus problems that Windows had before they started putting security tools in the base software. 

    But after Apple created the iPhone and iPad, they shifted from trying to get PC users to switch - again  where they were making slow but steady progress - to trying to take on Apple and Android in mobile. Like Ballmer, they had the great idea to try to use the same UI for their mobile, desktop and server versions of the software. Well the mobile version had no chance of succeeding. They lacked the money that Apple, Microsoft and even Google had to get their products out to people. They also had no apps. Like Microsoft is currently pushing with Windows 10 and Continuum (Ubuntu had this idea first) they felt that they could close the app gap with Android because their desktop applications could also run on phones and tablets because Ubuntu really only needs 1 GB of RAM. Had no chance of working because Ubuntu applications were not designed or optimized for small touch screens, and there was absolutely no developer interest in adapting them because there was no money in it. Ubuntu also tried to come up with a new, innovative UX/UI to differentiate themselves from iOS (and Android), and also to provide people with a practical way to use desktop application on a mobile interface, but it was unusable.

    The worst part was that where the previous Ubuntu interface - a ripoff of Windows XP - was outstanding, and in fact better than Windows XP in many ways, Unity - a lesser ripoff of iOS I suppose - made everything more difficult on a non-touchscreen desktop. As a result, the slow momentum that Ubuntu had in getting Windows users to switch came to a standstill and was reversed. Ubuntu couldn't even take advantage of the mess that was Windows 8 because their desktop was actually even worse. So scores of former Ubuntu users ultimately switched to Fedora, which is Red Hat's desktop competitor to Ubuntu. This despite Ubuntu having much more software available for desktop users due to being the Linux desktop of choice for ages. 

    It is not an exaggeration to say that Canonical ruined Ubuntu when they took control of the formerly open source community led effort and tried to make money off it. Thanks to their failed meddling, lots of even the Ubuntu diehards switched to Debian (on which Ubuntu is based). Even if Ubuntu had come out with good tech and a good product - and they did neither - they didn't have the billions of capital that it took to compete in this space anyway. Had they stuck with getting schools, techies and small businesses to switch from Windows PCs as well as doing a better job of competing with Red Hat and the other enterprise-focused distros in the server market, they would have done a lot better for themselves.
    mmajeski06auxioradarthekatnetmagelostkiwi
  • Reply 4 of 17
    freeperfreeper Posts: 77member
    Honestly, this story has nothing to do with Android. For example, the Motorola Atrix wasn't "Continuum". It just offered a charging dock with HDMI out and a USB 2.0 hub for a laptop and mouse. Lots of Android devices had mini-HDMI ports in that era before Google developed and started pushing Chromecast, and some manufacturers still include mini-HDMI ports on tablets, and more than a few Android manufacturers offered docks back then. But the Atrix, Xoom and the other devices with the USB 2.0/HDMI docks only sent the smartphone or tablet screen on the monitor or TV. In no sense did it pretend to function as a conventional PC, and if anything was better suited for video games and streaming video. It didn't offer the extra capability that Samsung's DeX does, which executes additional code to optimize the UI and compatible apps - Samsung's apps plus some from Microsoft - for a larger screen. And it certainly doesn't offer what Ubuntu achieved and Windows is still working on, which is the ability to run full-fledged desktop applications - instead of mobile apps - on a mobile device. What Ubuntu did and Windows is working on would be the equivalent of your iPad or iPhone running iOS when operating standalone and switching to macOS when docked. Granted, Samsung isn't doing that either with DeX - it would need to run Linux or at least Chrome OS when docked to be able to make that claim - but it is still a decided improvement over what Motorola and several other Android manufacturers were offering back then. (What the Motorola Atrix DID actually innovate by the way was a fingerprint scanner. Somehow DED's column failed to mention that). 

    So all that the columnist is trying to do here is associate Android with failure i.e. Ubuntu failed with an idea that Android tried first and also failed at and Samsung is allegedly taking another crack at when truthfully, all Samsung is doing is taking advantage of the new video out standards available in USB Type C. But Canonical's idea was not "the android of Android" or "the android of Android androids" because it had nothing to do with Android whatsoever. It was not based on anything that any Android manufacturer was attempting to do on a technology, application or OS standpoint. And it was an attempt to compete with iOS, not Android, as at the time Canonical launched their mobile ambitions, Android had like 15% market share and everyone - including this blog - was predicting its inevitable and likely imminent failure. But again, the failure of Ubuntu Touch has nothing to do with Android despite this columnist's best attempts to play association games. It is just another of many in the mobile OS graveyard, joining Sailfish, Symbian, Blackberry, webOS, Firefox OS, Java Mobile, Windows CE, Windows RT, Windows Mobile, Bada, Tizen and others still more obscure.
  • Reply 5 of 17
    freeper said:
    crowley said:
    A shame. Seemed like good tech.
    Ubuntu couldn't even take advantage of the mess that was Windows 8 because their desktop was actually even worse. So scores of former Ubuntu users ultimately switched to Fedora, which is Red Hat's desktop competitor to Ubuntu. This despite Ubuntu having much more software available for desktop users due to being the Linux desktop of choice for ages. 

    It is not an exaggeration to say that Canonical ruined Ubuntu when they took control of the formerly open source community led effort and tried to make money off it. Thanks to their failed meddling, lots of even the Ubuntu diehards switched to Debian (on which Ubuntu is based).
    Another one worth mentioning is the effect that Linux Mint had - as that distro quickly became a the go-to "I want something like Windows 7, but is easy to use and is modern" Linux distro.
    netmagebirko
  • Reply 6 of 17
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    iPhone killa!!

    ok what iKnockoff is next?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 17
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,848member
    Making and competing in the consumer electronics space isn't easy.
  • Reply 8 of 17
    auxioauxio Posts: 1,975member
    freeper said:

    Even if Ubuntu had come out with good tech and a good product - and they did neither - they didn't have the billions of capital that it took to compete in this space anyway. Had they stuck with getting schools, techies and small businesses to switch from Windows PCs as well as doing a better job of competing with Red Hat and the other enterprise-focused distros in the server market, they would have done a lot better for themselves.
    This is it in a nutshell really.  I simply don't understand the business model of trying to compete with Android in the consumer space, which is free and funded by the largest online advertising company in the world.  Even in schools it's difficult to compete because free Android/ChromeOS + GAFE makes a compelling case (hence the appeal of Chromebooks).

    The only place you can really make enough money to fund things is in the support.  Which is easy to convince people to pay for in enterprise where time is money, tougher in schools who are willing to cut corners in many cases, and near impossible in the consumer market where people are either willing to get a new (cheap) device when things go wrong or find a friend/family member tech enthusiast to solve problems for free.
    edited April 2017 netmage
  • Reply 9 of 17
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,799member
    So it turns out this smartphone/tablet thing is really hard to do. Looks like iOS and Android ARE the market for the foreseeable future.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 17
    mdriftmeyermdriftmeyer Posts: 7,230member
    Markets only have room for 2 dominant platforms. Ubuntu is embracing GNOME again, as they should.
  • Reply 11 of 17
    auxio said:

    This is it in a nutshell really.  I simply don't understand the business model of trying to compete with Android in the consumer space, which is free and funded by the largest online advertising company in the world.  Even in schools it's difficult to compete because free Android/ChromeOS + GAFE makes a compelling case (hence the appeal of Chromebooks).

    And some people do not want anything to do with Google and its data slurping and advertising and insatiable appetite to know everything about everyone on the planet. I am one of those btw.
    And Ubuntu was originally touted as 'Debian for idiots'. They made Debian for the masses. That is not what Android or Chromebooks are about.
    It became very popular with Linux Newbies. Moving into the Mobile space sorta made sense at the time and there were many that wanted Ubuntu Phones but they failed or failed to materialise.
    Canonical was also trying to become an alternative RedHat. This didn't work very well so we end up with where we are today.
    A big project cancelled and now it seems that layoffs are inevitable as budgets are trimmed.
    many of my LUG friends now run Mint. I bailed from Ubuntu around 2013 and sent to CentOS(with Cinammon) on the Desktop and Servers. Far more stable than Ubuntu ever was and to me that was a big part of the problem. They often fixed something only to break it again a month later. I got fed up with that.
    It is a lot better now but for me it was too late.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 17
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,110member
    freeper said:
    Honestly, this story has nothing to do with Android. For example, the Motorola Atrix wasn't "Continuum". It just offered a charging dock with HDMI out and a USB 2.0 hub for a laptop and mouse. Lots of Android devices had mini-HDMI ports in that era before Google developed and started pushing Chromecast, and some manufacturers still include mini-HDMI ports on tablets, and more than a few Android manufacturers offered docks back then. But the Atrix, Xoom and the other devices with the USB 2.0/HDMI docks only sent the smartphone or tablet screen on the monitor or TV. In no sense did it pretend to function as a conventional PC, and if anything was better suited for video games and streaming video. It didn't offer the extra capability that Samsung's DeX does, which executes additional code to optimize the UI and compatible apps - Samsung's apps plus some from Microsoft - for a larger screen. And it certainly doesn't offer what Ubuntu achieved and Windows is still working on, which is the ability to run full-fledged desktop applications - instead of mobile apps - on a mobile device. What Ubuntu did and Windows is working on would be the equivalent of your iPad or iPhone running iOS when operating standalone and switching to macOS when docked. Granted, Samsung isn't doing that either with DeX - it would need to run Linux or at least Chrome OS when docked to be able to make that claim - but it is still a decided improvement over what Motorola and several other Android manufacturers were offering back then. (What the Motorola Atrix DID actually innovate by the way was a fingerprint scanner. Somehow DED's column failed to mention that). 

    So all that the columnist is trying to do here is associate Android with failure i.e. Ubuntu failed with an idea that Android tried first and also failed at and Samsung is allegedly taking another crack at when truthfully, all Samsung is doing is taking advantage of the new video out standards available in USB Type C. But Canonical's idea was not "the android of Android" or "the android of Android androids" because it had nothing to do with Android whatsoever. It was not based on anything that any Android manufacturer was attempting to do on a technology, application or OS standpoint. And it was an attempt to compete with iOS, not Android, as at the time Canonical launched their mobile ambitions, Android had like 15% market share and everyone - including this blog - was predicting its inevitable and likely imminent failure. But again, the failure of Ubuntu Touch has nothing to do with Android despite this columnist's best attempts to play association games. It is just another of many in the mobile OS graveyard, joining Sailfish, Symbian, Blackberry, webOS, Firefox OS, Java Mobile, Windows CE, Windows RT, Windows Mobile, Bada, Tizen and others still more obscure.
    blah blah blah, android rules, this site sucks, yada yada. troll off. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 17
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,110member
    Ubuntu? I'm going to learn...Ubuntu?


    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 17
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,687member
    This never had a chance. Amazon's Fire Phone never had a chance. Project Ara (and similar projects) never had a chance. It's not just luck or marketing that allowed some to fail and others to succeed—you need to start with a reasonable foundation.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 17
    auxioauxio Posts: 1,975member
    And some people do not want anything to do with Google and its data slurping and advertising and insatiable appetite to know everything about everyone on the planet. I am one of those btw.
    As am I.  But, when talking about the consumer market, most people either don't know or don't care (willing to trade privacy for cheaper products).  The education market is different, but then Google promises that they don't harvest data from students with GAFE.  And even then, many people in schools don't really understand and use all sorts of services which track/harvest (YouTube, etc).

    And Ubuntu was originally touted as 'Debian for idiots'. They made Debian for the masses. That is not what Android or Chromebooks are about.
    I understand that Ubuntu isn't the same as Android.

    My point is related to finding a market (and business case) for your product.  Something general purpose Linux distros, which are community/enthusiast-supported, don't have to worry about.

    For the mass market, people generally prioritize cheap and easy (in that order).  People who use iOS certainly aren't looking for something like Ubuntu because they're willing to pay extra for the simplicity and level of support which comes with the Apple ecosystem.  If they are disgruntled, they'll tend to look for high-end Android devices at most.

    So to me, the main market for a commercially-supported version of Ubuntu (outside of tech enthusiasts, which is a relatively small market that generally doesn't pay for support), is Android users who are disgruntled with the Android ecosystem for one reason or another.  Which is why I put it up against Android/ChromeOS and didn't see the business case.
    edited April 2017
  • Reply 16 of 17
    Well, it's like they say: "If it was easy, anyone could do it."
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 17
    DanielEranDanielEran Posts: 290editor
    freeper said:
    Honestly, this story has nothing to do with Android. For example, the Motorola Atrix wasn't "Continuum". It just offered a charging dock with HDMI out and a USB 2.0 hub for a laptop and mouse ... (What the Motorola Atrix DID actually innovate by the way was a fingerprint scanner. Somehow DED's column failed to mention that). 

     Canonical's idea was not "the android of Android" or "the android of Android androids" because it had nothing to do with Android whatsoever.
    I was going to congratulate you on your first comment, which added something of value to the conversation without delving into conspiracy theory and personal attacks. 

    Then you started in again. 1) article doesn't say Motorola did continuum. It said it tried to make a phone into a PC of sorts. Google it if you've forgotten. I also linked to an article. Phone brains for a laptop shell:

      



    Its other features aren't relevant, but the fact is its fingerprint reader stopped working by the end of the year and was dropped. 

    Being the "android of Android" is a reference to being a half-assed knock-off copycat that paints oneself as innovative and novel, to another of the same. 
    edited April 2017 pscooter63lostkiwiwatto_cobra
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