Ubuntu for Phone or Android?

The original blog post can be found here.

Ubuntu and Me

I’ve been using Ubuntu in some capacity for close to ten years. I started my Linux journey with Red Hat in a college class around that same time, though how I ended up with Ubuntu as my personal *nix of choice I can’t quite remember. There was even a time, about three years ago, that four out of the five computing devices in my home were running some form of Linux (the last holdout was a Windows machine for gaming).

I can’t explain why I enjoy using Ubuntu. I’m not a programmer. I don’t tweak source code for my personal needs. I don’t really add anything to the community (I’ve answered a few questions on the forums but that was ages ago).

I think it’s the challenge really. A lot of things in the Linux world don’t, “Just work.” I love a good brain stretch and Ubuntu provides that, although the OS has become far more polished in the past few releases.

Something Happened…

Some time ago I was wandering the internet and decided to go see what Canonical had up their sleeves for the next release or two of Ubuntu. What I found had me giddy with excitement. A new development was underway called Ubuntu for Android.

Essentially, your phone is still running Android. All of your mobile experience is the full Android lifestyle. Now, however, your phone is also your desktop computer! Now you can be at the office, working on that approaching deadline and decide, “Hey, I’d be a lot more productive at home in my PJs.” At your office desk is a monitor, keyboard, mouse and phone dock. Your android device is currently docked and a full desktop installation of Ubuntu is showing on the monitor. The OS is running on your phone!

You simply log out, undock the phone and go home where you have a similar dock setup. Change into your PJs, dock the phone and resume working on the project.

At the time I was still an iPhone user, though my Apple fanboy status had been shaken by the price tag of converting my household to full iGlory. I found out about Ubuntu for Android as I was browsing the web, reading reviews, trying to decide if I should burn a phone upgrade for an Android device or hold out for the newly announced Windows Phone 8. When I discovered the Ubuntu project it was the winning argument in Android’s favor. I immediately went out and purchased my first Android, a Samsung Infuse 4g.

I was quite disappointed to learn that the project is destined to be released to phone manufactures. As far as I can tell there are no plans to release Ubuntu for Android as an installable feature to existing Android hardware.

A New Hope

This week Canonical made a significant announcement. They are taking Ubuntu into the mobile universe in a big way. On January 2nd 2012 at 11 a.m. MST Canonical announced a new project called Ubuntu for Phone.

At first glance one might wonder, “Wait, isn’t that just a re-branding of the old Ubuntu for Android project.”

Not even close.

Ubuntu for Phone is a complete Ubuntu mobile OS. The Verge got their hands on a demo model (see video below). The narrator also mentioned that Canonical is planning to release installable images for the Google Nexus for developers to use for… well, development.

Tough Choice?

Maybe not.

The biggest challenge I see for the Ubuntu Phone is the availability of apps. The OS may rock, but it will not run apps from Google Play. I have a good friend who says he had a better phone experience with Windows Phone 7 when compared to Android and Apple, but a severe lack of app availability drove him to the Android platform.

Both of the Canonical projects offer the desktop Ubuntu capabilities when docked but Android has the established app market.

I’m excited to see what Canonical does with their mobile OS, and I’ll probably install it for a while if an image is ported for my Galaxy S III, but in my opinion Ubuntu for Android is the winner in this comparison.