Michael Bastos Online Writings and Resume


Canonical needs Ubuntu Phone & TV installers

As many of you know, I have been an exclusive Ubuntu Desktop user for the last 3 years, I do a lot of hardcore development and it’s one of the best operating systems outside of MacOS to do that sort of thing. I’m a huge Ubuntu fan boy from wearing the t-shirts to taking their laptop case everywhere with me. What got me involved with Ubuntu was it’s ease of installation which pales in comparison to what it was like for me in the early days of linux trying to get red hat working on my computers as a teenager. Regardless of what some analysts may say, it’s what has basically won Canonical most of it’s market share in the Desktop OS industry outside of servers.

So it really pains me to see them changing their strategy when they announced Ubuntu TV and Ubuntu Phone, there is some analyst or consultant out there that has been going from company to company somehow advising businesses that they need to act more like Google or Apple when dealing in the TV or Mobile space. I’m picturing right now the same guy going to Google and saying, “You need to keep Google TV close and only release it to hardware partners.” It was the same advice that was given to Palm, Blackberry has been eating it up and now I’m sad to see Ubuntu somehow falling into that same trap.

From everything I’ve learned about Ubuntu TV and Ubuntu Phone, you need to be a hardware partner in order to get the OS built for your specific piece of hardware, I get the intrinsic value of needing to optimize for those devices and I can see how attractive this strategy looks when it’s been hard for Ubuntu to get laptop and desktop OEM’s to sell Ubuntu pre-installed. I think this strategy though is doomed to fail and will address how I feel they can get around it but first why would it fail?

Manufacturer’s are fickle, it took Android a very long time to get picked up by this bunch and it was only because they wanted to compete with Apple and there was nothing else at the time that they could adopt that was really that good. The one value add from using Ubuntu on anything from a phone to a TV is that it’s free to the manufacturer but this is already taken care of by Android and so it’s like offering Samsung or HTC something they already have. Most manufacturer’s have already been through intense litigation with both Microsoft and Apple in order to defend their right to use Android and so after all that money and all the deals made I don’t see them switching away from Android and risk getting into more litigation from another Linux Kernel based OS.

Let’s not even consider the fact that the first Ubuntu phone device won’t be released for at least another year makes it pretty much dead on arrival, Mark Shuttle’s worth is a great guy but he’s suffering from Google, Apple and Microsoft envy if he thinks he can adopt their strategy and somehow win in this space. I love the guy and what he’s done with his company but as a user of Ubuntu and as someone whom has spent the hours necessary to learn both how to install it as well as optimize it I feel shafted when I see their current new strategy on both the TV and Phone fronts.

I think the only way an Ubuntu Phone will get penetration is if they throw out the rule book from all the big guys, they need to create something for Ubuntu Phone akin to Cyanogenmod. If you say your OS will work with existing Android hardware then prove it, not to the OEM’s but to those of us that have been hacking phones and laptops all of our lives. Find the top 3 best selling phones in the marketplace today and create an installer ROM of Ubuntu Phone to release into the world one phone at a time, don’t depend on the manufacturers to create the hype, make it yourself. Give us what we need to quickly and easily install Ubuntu Phone on the existing hardware that’s out there and let us be your spokesmen, only then when the manufacturer’s see people using and doing this with their devices will they really start taking your phone idea seriously.

Same goes for Ubuntu TV, I’ve gone through the trouble of installing it through PPA but that’s a pain in the ass for anyone who’s not a developer and it would be way easier if you guys had an ISO available so that people can start adopting the system now verses waiting for an OEM to build a TV or box with it. Boxee didn’t make that mistake at first, they had their software in all the major platforms and only when they had a valuable user base approached an OEM to make a device for them. The problem I feel boxee ran into though is that they then decided that their future was in the box and said screw you to their original desktop users. I feel they are now suffering for it because they no longer have the massive user base they once did because of the software installs. Much like Ubuntu Phone, give us Ubuntu TV in an easy to install format and we will push it, we will install it on ARM sticks and give it to family members and friends to try out, we will put it on Raspberry Pi devices and sell the idea for you at CES and Mobile World Conference.

Canonical has been lied to by OEM’s, they’ve been promised the world but the efforts that the manufacturers will give is little in this crowded space of connected mobile devices and televisions. Everyone is looking for a solution but most OEM’s want that solution for themselves, they preach that they want to use Open Source tools and systems and get you guys to do all this work optimizing for their devices like they did with Android only to then try and create their own eco system that no one else wants to play in. They have Apple envy and thus will promise you the world but cut the device short when it doesn’t sell as well and what are you left with? No user base, no one else wanting to partner with you guys on this project and your back to building a great operating system but a failed mobile strategy. Keep releasing great ISO’s, great software and don’t trust the manufacturers to hold up to their part of the deal when it comes to mobile and television, prove yourself with a massive install base first like you did with laptops and desktops and they will be more inclined to work with you in the long run.