Canonical has developed a smartphone version of its Ubuntu Linux operating system, and the company expects the first smartphones running Ubuntu to hit the market in either late 2013 or early 2014.
The new software is a boon for both users and developers in that ISVs can build applications that run on desktop PCs, laptop computers and smartphones, said Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu founder and products vice president at Canonical, in a phone conference Wednesday.
The announcement "marks a significant expansion of the mission of Ubuntu," he said, and it brings "a fresh face to the table" in the smartphone arena.
Shuttleworth acknowledged that Canonical is late to a competitive smartphone market that's already crowded with other open-source operating systems like Google's Android and Hewlett-Packard's WebOS. But he said the company has the advantage of an existing community of developers and ISVs who already build applications for Ubuntu.
The Ubuntu for smartphones uses the same drivers as Android smartphones and is compatible with a typical "Android board support package." The software development kit is available now, and a full image of the software, offered as a replacement for Android on Google's Nexus 3 tablet, will be available shortly.
Shuttleworth said Canonical has been in talks with a smartphone manufacturer, which he described as a "household name," about the possibility of adding Ubuntu to its handset. But he declined to name the vendor and said it would be late 2013 or early 2014 before that happens.
Canonical is targeting the new Ubuntu toward two market segments: the high-end of the smartphone market where "power users" are interested in running Ubuntu Linux apps on their device; and entry-level, basic smartphones users who want to add Web and email capabilities.
Canonical already operates an app marketplace for Ubuntu applications, and Shuttleworth said that would be expanded to include apps written to run on smartphones with Ubuntu. The software will support both native applications and apps written for the Web or HTML5.
PUBLISHED JAN. 2, 2013