As is expected, the recent announcement of Ubuntu for Phones has drawn a stream of reactions and arguments from pundits and analysts in the mobile space. While there are those who recognise the merits of the new OS and have a cautious optimism about it, I have read mostly comments arguing as to why Ubuntu for phones will not succeed. I will not join in the arguments for or against one platform or the other, as history has shown that it is a fruitless exercise. Most pundits didn’t give iOS a chance. See where it is today. Most wouldn’t even comment about Bada. Yet, Bada OS is at the number 4 spot today in the smartphone market. What I am interested in are the arguments being pushed as to why Ubuntu for Phones is doomed.
Ubuntu Didn’t Make A Mark In Desktop
It is being argued that because Ubuntu never got a solid foothold in desktop computing, it has no hope in mobile. That’s a very insipid argument, if you ask me. Let’s look at the greatest revolution in mobile OS – iOS. Apple has remained a small player on desktop, yet took mobile by storm. Google had no hold on the desktop market, except by piggy-backing on web services. Zero platform share. It is interesting that the two entities who have executed the greatest disruption in mobile were ones with zero to weak desktop control. If it has been done before, it has been done and so can be done again. The argument does not hold water.
The Smartphone Market Is Saturated
This one is quite hilarious, and tends to come from people who are new to mobile. Come back with me to 2007 when the iPhone was launched. There were how many mobile operating systems and manufacturers on ground? We had two (2) forks of Symbian, two (2) variants of Windows Mobile, Maemo, BlackBerry, and Palm. That is as saturated as it gets. Yet, iOS still disrupted things. It was even worse when Android came on board, because iOS had then been added to the list, making the market even more saturated. Yet, Android leads the pack today. That is an OS that came into a saturated market.
The Smartphone Dream
Those arguing that Ubuntu for Phones or any other OS is doomed to fail based on the above two arguments have missed it. Those arguments don’t mean jack. Of course, that those arguments are meaningless does not mean that Ubuntu will succeed.
Success in the smartphone market depends on factors that have nothing to do with the above. It has to do with the ability to dream beyond what exists now and to pursue that dream relentlessly. The iPhone was not given a chance to succeed. Android was not either. But they offered dreams beyond what they met on ground, and succeeded. Yes; things are different today, but things will always be different. Things keep changing. And that is part of the foundation for innovation.
The smartphone space is open to dreamers. Regardless of where they have failed in the past, and regardless of how many players are on ground, anyone with a vision and a dream of doing things better can succeed in the smartphone space. Anyone. Someday, Android will be a has-been, as will iOS. They will age (as iOS in particular already is aging), and it won’t be because they become useless. It will be because someone steps in again to change the game. That someone can be anybody – Ubuntu, Sailfish, Firefox, or… Vuvuzelu.
Founder of MobilityArena. Yomi’s journey in mobile started in 2001. Besides obsessing over mobile phones, he also started creating WAP sites (early mobile-friendly websites created with WML). He began writing about phones in 2004 and has been at it since then. He has owned over 200 devices, from Symbian, Palm, PocketPC/Windows Mobile, BlackBerry/BB10, webOS, Windows Phone, Firefox, Ubuntu Touch, to Android, iOS, and KaiOS operating systems.