Ubuntu smartphones to ship in October, report says

Developer version running on Galaxy Nexus phone to appear in late February

Smartphones running the open source Ubuntu operating system will start shipping in October, although it isn't clear if they will be available in the U.S., according to a report.

Mark Shuttleworth, the CEO of Canonical Ltd., told CIO Journal that the new smartphone OS will be available in October in two large geographic markets, without committing that one of them would be North America. Developers will also be able to access the OS on the Galaxy Nexus smartphone from Samsung in late February.

Canonical provides services for corporations that use Linux-based software called Ubuntu. A Ubuntu smartphone could be used to link to a large display in an office, even wirelessly, to access Windows applications kept on backend servers.

Canonical could not be reached to comment on the report.

Despite the promise of Ubuntu in a smartphone or other device, analysts widely regard its chances of catching on as slim. Already, corporations are adapting to smartphones and tablets running Google's Android or Apple's iOS that employees bring to work. Company IT shops have adapted to the consumer devices by installing mobile device management software on the corporate network to provide added security and controls across the largest smartphone platforms.

One analyst, Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates, dismissed the value of an Ubuntu smartphone, even though such a device could provide some value to Linux developers inside organizations.

"I can't see any enterprises willingly adopting an Ubuntu phone," Gold said. "I don't even see many users wanting one, either, unless they are techies. It just doesn't make sense for enterprises to support a device that will have such small market penetration, even if you look out longer term. And I suspect very few MDM vendors will support them either."

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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