Canonical has found a manufacturing partner for its Linux-based Ubuntu Touch smartphone, and the firm's founder Mark Shuttleworth has promised that Ubuntu-powered devices will be available in 2014.
Shuttleworth told CNET at the LeWeb conference: "We have concluded our first set of agreements to ship Ubuntu on mobile phones. We've shifted gears from 'making a concept' to 'it's going to ship'."
Shuttleworth would not say who will manufacture the device, but he did say it would appear on high-end phones. He also said his company was in discussion with four other "household brands" that are considering taking on the OS, noting that together the companies cover all areas of the smartphone market, from emerging economies to wealthy countries.
Canonical has already had one stab at entering the market with its new OS, attempting to crowdfund the powerful Ubuntu Edge. The smartphone, which could also double up as a mouse and keyboard-controlled device hooked up to a monitor, fell $19m short of its $32m funding target despite backing from organisations such as Bloomberg.
Shuttleworth said at the time: "Who knows, perhaps one day we'll take everything we've learned from this campaign – achievements and mistakes – and try it all over again." Canonical said at the time that it would change its approach and pitch its software to manufacturers instead.
Ubuntu Touch will enter a competitive market, especially if the claims about high-end manufacturers are true. Android, iOS and Windows Phone have a significant hold on the premium handset market. In the low-end stakes, the operating system will still face a challenge, with open-source Firefox OS, Android and Windows Phone devices all competing.
However, if the firm is able to convince developers to create quality applications for its ecosystem and couples that to quality hardware, it could see success.
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