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Ubuntu-powered handsets to ship later this year, more details at MWC

Canonical has now announced it plans to ship the first Ubuntu-powered handsets later this year, partnering with BQ and Meizu. Canonical hints that we'll learn more at MWC.
February 19, 2014
Ubuntu phone now being guided by an advisory group

While Ubuntu’s mobile OS shows a fair amount of promise, getting the phone effort off the ground hasn’t exactly been easy for Canonical. Although Ubuntu has supported a few Android devices for a while now, they’ve yet to introduce their own hardware and are still very behind when it comes to the existence of mobile apps.

After last year’s failure to produce enough funds for the Ubuntu Edge’s ambitious crowdfunding campaign, many of us have been wondering when exactly we’ll see the first mobile devices with Ubuntu pre-installed. Today Canonical has announced the first Ubuntu-powered handsets will ship sometime later this year, with Spain’s BQ and China’s Meizu both signed up as hardware partners.

The big question is whether or not the company even has a chance at making a dent in the mobile world

Although Ubuntu and its partners aren’t getting into specifics just yet, we do know that the handsets will focus on the mid-to-high-range market. Considering we’ve seen a leaked image of a Meizu MX3 running Ubuntu in the past, it’s possible that Meizu’s Ubuntu handset will simply be a rebranded MX3, though that’s just speculation on our part. Hopefully we’ll know more soon enough, as Canonical’s founder Mark Shuttleworth says that more details about their Ubuntu phone efforts will be shared at MWC next week.

The big question is whether or not the company even has a chance at making a dent in the mobile world. On one hand, we’re happy to see another opensource OS make its way to the mobile world. On the other hand, the mobile market is already extremely crowded and Canonical doesn’t exactly have the deep pockets that may be required to really push itself forward so late in the game.

Still, Ubuntu on mobile could certainly prove to be popular among Ubuntu and Linux fans looking for a ‘purer’ Linux experience than Android has to offer. It’s also no secret that the Chinese-optimized Ubuntu Kylin desktop OS has been very popular in China, with over 1,300,000 downloads in less than six months. This means that the Chinese market could be an important opportunity for Canonical, if they play their cards right.

What do you think, can Ubuntu carve out at a small share of the market at least as a distant fourth place contender? Conversely, do you feel the project will remain nothing more than a very limited niche offering? Let us know what you think in the comments below.