And any number of hurdles still stand in Canonical's way, no matter how cool things look now

Canonical has been buzzing in our ears about Ubuntu as a mobile device operating system for a while now. We've seen them tout integrating a solution into Android for a year, and before that they had plans for their own mobile version of Ubuntu that more than a few Linux geeks were following. Today they came full circle and showed off a native OS on an Android phone, getting some of us pumped for the "next big thing."

But with yet another announcement without a single flashable image, will Ubuntu OS even have a chance?

Let's discuss the pros and cons, and see why 2014 might be too late for any success for Canonical. Read on.

Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth explains Ubuntu's mobile strategy

Watch the video above. It's an interesting 20 minutes, where we hear about Ubuntu's big industry partners on the desktop space, how the software has evolved and is praised by the computing industry, and how Ubuntu is going to be the first platform to offer full convergence on all your devices. It's going to be the future, and this is going to change everything.

There are two major issues and roadblocks to keep this convergence from happening. Canonical has done a marvelous job making Linux into something that is easy to use, and more important easy to configure. Anyone who cares enough to follow the progress of the various Linux distributions has to agree that Ubuntu has moved Linux forward more in the past couple years than anyone who came before them. But success on the desktop -- even limited success -- does not directly translate to success in mobile. See Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 for a prime example. You need industry backing, and the right timing.



The first issue the folks behind Ubuntu need to handle is how the carriers are going to feel about a mobile OS that's really open. Carriers hate the fact that you can unlock your Android phone and install unauthorized software on them. I've been told exactly that from folks high enough on the carrier food chain to make me believe it is true. Makes sense, because a large portion of what we call Android hacking is geared towards having something your carrier does not want you to have. Ubuntu, in its current state, is completely free and open. Every portion of the OS is open-source, and they take pride in that fact. Verizon and AT&T simply won't allow this to happen, and Canonical is already talking about Ubuntu being "tailored for your brand" for OEMs and operators. I'm afraid that this means the Ubuntu phone is going to have to eschew the "open" philosophy that Canonical loves so much. If they don't, the phone is dead-on-arrival because it has no support from existing partners in the mobile industry. 

We don't know how the two sides are going to meet in the middle, but we know it has to happen. Canonical isn't very likely to sit back and let Verizon dictate when a phone can be updated with a patch to fix a kernel vulnerability, and Verizon or AT&T isn't going to allow anything remotely like "sudo apt-get install free-wireless-tethering" to happen on their network. And make no mistake -- success in the U.S. means success on Verizon and AT&T. 

So don't bet on the carriers to pick this up.


KDE Mobile

Here's what Ubuntu mobile looked like when it was going to be the next big thing back in 2008. There was even a preview build you could run in an emulator on your computer. I would link you (the information was worth seeing) but now the link takes you to today's mobile Ubuntu news. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about it. It was going to bring the Web 2.0 experience to all your devices -- from the desktop to the PC to your smartphone. A convergence if you will. It never happened.

Fast forward a few years to the 2012 Mobile World Congress and we see things have changed, and now we're talking Ubuntu for Android. It's Android on your phone, but when you plug in a monitor and keyboard you get an Ubuntu desktop. We were excited, as Motorola showed us that a desktop experience from your phone could work -- they just did it poorly. We were told it was coming, and how great it would be, and that industry partners were going to offer phones with it included. The new convergence that didn't happen.

Today, we hear about the next next big thing from Canonical. My God, it looks great, doesn't it? The nerds in the house all love the open system it's running on, and everyone loves the sleek now look Canonical is showing off. We finally get to see Ubuntu for a phone, and the demo running on the Galaxy Nexus shows how close it is to happening. The Linux-loving smartphone nerd inside me was all excited, until I read the press release that had no hint of a release date, then looked at Canonical's track record and told myself that nothing can happen until 2014 at least.

Stop dangling that carrot


The time is now, Canonical. We have a mostly unified Linux kernel for ARM devices, and Android is mature enough that the tinkerers, like yours truly, are ready for something new to play with. When enough tinkerers find enough cool things going on, the press picks it up. Never mind that plenty of the tinkerers are part of the press, I mean mainstream places like the WSJ or Yahoo. Issues with carriers and OEMs aside, you're going to need the mainstream press to face the juggernauts in mobile and stand a chance. Simply put, you can't give Microsoft another year while you just show pretty pictures and video.

I get that they can't pull phones out of their backside. I know it takes at least a year to design and build a smartphone. But Ubuntu, like all versions of Linux, is supposed to be different. As a Linux user I expect a level of transparency and openness from a vendor that you don't find very often -- not even with Android. This means they can release the source code, or a handy little image that will flash on hardware we already have just as soon as it's ready.

They mentioned just that at today's press conference, saying to expect image files in the coming weeks. Thanks to Google, we have hardware to flash them on -- Nexus phones. They are completely unlocked, have a fully open and documented kernel, and would look great running a build of Ubuntu. If they release the image files in a timely manner, they can get people interested, and keep people interested, If they wait for months, any industry buzz will have withered away and Redmond picks up third place without a fight. Canonical is going to be at CES, and you can bet we'll be there to see what they have to show us and what they say about it. And if they have flashable images at the ready, you can bet we'll be flashing them!


Reader comments

The Ubuntu phone's time, if ever, is now - not in 2014


I really really like the concept. I don't think the 2014 date has to be the date for a launch. I think if Canonical can bust out the code or even their own images for not just the Galaxy Nexus, then it could for sure be NOW.

He says he wants the same screen faces e.g android nexus cant do it/microsoft.... but they changed it aswell on the phone.

I think the carriers will kill this Ubuntu. Not necessarily for advanced users or tinkerers/hackers, but I do not foresee it ever gaining mass adoption. As the article mentions, carriers hate open. Now, I could be wrong, and Ubuntu could help push consumers towards actually owning their devices, but I feel that that's the challenge Google is facing now with Android. If Google gains more weight as a force against the carriers (i.e. with price points and features like the Nexus 4), then we may finally see some openness. Until then, I doubt Ubuntu will become more than an aftermarket mod to a phone. (Not that I'm hoping for this!)

Carriers, they won't even get the chance to weigh in. No one has pointed out the elephant in the room... Canonical doesn't own any significant mobile patents! Without those, they are going to need to find a handset maker willing to shoulder the entire burden of getting involved in a multi-billion-dollar war just to brave a new mobile OS, when Android is selling like a mother****** and has decent patent cred thanks to billions spent by Google. What handset maker would ever do that?

I hadn't even thought of that part of it (not sure how I missed it, though)... you're right. This has no chance at all in this patent lawsuit happy world we now live in.

Case noted, but there is still a significant scope for such mobile platforms in developing countries like India, Africa where carriers have no say in posing any restrictions on consumers. Unlike developed continents like US,Europe, Australia.
Though they will still have to partner with mobile manufacturers to stride over , patent hurdles. Moreover, if they can release it for the google nexus 7, by feb '13, the same should be applicable for the other android handsets as well ....

Jerry, as is often the case, I agree with most of what you said. If this does not keep moving fast, it will totally fall off the radar. And meanwhile, other players will just make things that much harder. And we have seen many other mobile (non-Android) Linux projects either never take off, or die. (I will note, however, that other Linux distros, most notably Fedora/Redhat and Debian have easily progressed Linux distros much further in many respects compared to just Ubuntu; I think far much credit is giving to Ubuntu, and it really isn't all that great when objectively compared to many other distros).

In some ways, this latest mobile effort is similar to KDE's Plasma Active http://plasma-active.org . It should be interesting to see how it would work on tablets and phones, especially compared to Plasma Active. And Plasma Active has been moving pretty slowly...

In any case, I have a hard time believing any company would endorse Ubuntu Linux for phones for offical phone use (which they seem to be pushing the most) since that market is already so dominated by Android Linux and iOS. Plus, phone carriers have such huge power when it comes to controlling the "blobs" that are necessary to interact with their cellular networks, this would make getting on approved handsets very challenging. Of course, that will not stop people from tinkering and hopefully using it, anyway.

KDE Plasma Active is a standard layer (window manager/tools/apps) on top of any Linux and X11. This brings the "full" Linux experience to a Plasma Active device. However, it appears that "Ubuntu Linux for Phones" is probably not using X11 at all (I have been digging but can't find much useful info). If so, is this is creating yet another incompatible ecosystem? It reminds me very much of Android apps not running on standard Linux desktops, standard Linux apps not running on Android, Metro apps being separate from MS-Windows 8 desktop apps, iOS apps not the same as MacOS, etc. I would think the one big advantage of such a project would/could be application ubiquity, had they cared about that (granted different modes of operation would be necessary). But perhaps my expectations just don't match who they are targeting?

Does this tie into their "Ubuntu Linux for Android" in any way? ( http://www.ubuntu.com/devices/android ) What is Canonical's stake in this? Advertising dollars? Licensing deals? Skimming profits from another marketplace under their complete control? Is this a closed-development project?

Lots of questions. Very interesting stuff, though.

While Stallman's facts are usually accurate, his spin is hard to swallow at times. This is the real news though... Canonical's assumption of privacy rights, even with an easy way to opt out, is kind of a slap in the face to the general Ubuntu community, given the prevalence of "free = free" and "up-front disclosure/opt-in" attitude in the developer and consumer communities.

I will point on that it is not "free" tethering. It is just "allowed" tethering, and only because those carriers allowing it are on limited data plans (and that data counts against it, just like if it were being used on the phone only).

On Sprint, which has unlimited data, tethering is still not allowed unless you purchase a tethering plan, which has LIMITED data to go with it.

AT&T lapdock couldn't even be used without a tethering plan, despite the lapdock just being a fancy keyboard and screen for the phone.

Unless android died suddenly of a hart attack I don't see room for another mobile OS. Even if that were to happen, Microsoft Phone 8 is already there waiting to step up; they already have phones with the two big carries, VZ and AT&T and it seems that Microsoft is committed to make their OS a success. If Microsoft being a software giant has had a hard time trying to get noticed, I don't see how a relatively small company without the money that Google and Microsoft have can make it in this market. But I admit that the OS look nice, I really would like some of those features on android.

As much as I'd like to say I'm an app developer I can't as I'm technically still in training but anyway what I wanted to say was that I think its great they've released it now as the SDK is ready to download so at ces they'll have some apps and games to prance around the stage with, and then by the time they release an actual phone in 2013 they'll have quite a few games + apps on it.

As a mobile gamer what interests me is that they've stated on their site that valve (along with unity and EA) have pledged allegiance with the platform now correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think valve has made any mobile games before - at least not on android.

I feel as though this is going to go nowhere, the absolute best they can aspire to is sit behind the already miniscule WP8 and that has nothing to do with the quality of their software or anything of the sort, simply the enormous brand recognition and marketing budget of giants like Microsoft.

The only reason Android has gotten any kind of mainstream recognition is because it has Google for the common consumer to recognize. A lot of people can't make the distinction between "Android" and "Samsung" when you hear them talk.

The only way I can see them making waves is the same way Open WebOS made any waves when it was announced, having the potentially interesting bits stripped and integrated to Android. Truth be told, very VERY few companies have the muscle required to create an ecosystem to compete with Amazon and Apple, Google has proven to be one of them, but Canonical? I doubt it.

I'm slightly confused. Did you mean to say very few people have the muscle to compete with Apple and Google? Because Amazon's OS is just skinned/forked android.

And if Canonical were an international retailer with billions of customers worldwide then they might fall into the category of "having the muscle" but as it is, anyone short of Microsoft (and not even Microsoft, apparently) really shouldn't bother trying to go it alone on a mobile OS. Go do something else with your life, for god's sake. Upstart competition is good but this is like some guy with a mortgage and a 401k trying to get into the international insurance business to compete with AIG. Some things just won't ever be done by an upstart.

Amazon has the ecosystem to compete. It's not about the OS for them, they sell you the ecosystem of having your prime account and being able to provide the services they do. I think that's what he was referring to.

Not what I was expecting. I thought it would be an Android phone just like my Galaxy Nexus running Android apps. Then you'd dock the thing and up pops Ubuntu on a monitor. I would have access to docs, pics, contacts and more and maybe even cellular data for Internet. I'd have a keyboard and mouse and access to regular Ubuntu apps. The blur between desktop and mobile would have been the exchange in data.

In my job I deploy mobile phones all day long and I've yet to see anyone clamoring for some kind of convergence like this. My users want a full power desktop at the office and something portable to get key info on the go. Even my iPad users still have a desktop at the office. Hardly anyone is using their mobile device solely as a mobile office. They might pass docs and pictures back and forth, but that's about it (and most of those users are tablet users where the screen real estate makes sense)

The security aspect is interesting, but no lock screen? That will never work in IT.

As an Ubuntu user daily I was hoping for more, but underwelmed. I have to agree with Jerry on this one......the carriers will make or break this and I just don't see them wanting a 5th OS when IOS and Android already make up 90% of their sales. Basically I saw eye candy and nothing that would make me want that phone (and I'm an Ubuntu evangelist).

Even iPad users, the iPad could only replace a desktop/laptop for the most casual users, who basically read email and view a few websites.
It's not good for any type of real work and I own one and love it.

A tablet is a relatively niche product unless it is for strictly consumption. But hook a keyboard up to that iPad and connect it to a server or desktop in the cloud that does the work and you can do amazing things with exceptional portability. It's a great for developers and all sorts of users, but most people don't know how to do any of that. Ubuntu faces the same challenges and user bases.

Yea, that does work, i use the functionality to access my media server.
But without a mouse it's still slower, if I only have one small thing to do I'll connect via my ipad which I don't have to power up, login etc. But for any sizable work I RDP from my desktop. I also use RDP about 85% of the day every day at work.

And still I wouldn't call that replacing the desktop, theirs still a windows pc or server somewhere that's doing all of the work, the iPad at best creates a slightly awkward thin client.

I hope for the sake of people, this project gets some traction. But, my realistic expectations are not very high. Because most people are simple consumers, stuck in the consumption mindset. They will flock to whatever they see advertised and hyped the most.

The two computers running in my house, at this moment, are running Ubuntu (wife) and Xubuntu (me). I'm kind of a geek and she is a typical user. We are both far happier than we were when we used Windows (and do so much more with our computers, and have much fewer frustrations too). At work my wife uses the company's PC running Windows, and it drives her absolutely nuts.

I got her a Nexus 4 a few weeks back, and she loves it. I told her that Ubuntu might soon be available to run on her phone. Meh she says... she is happy with her android phone as it is, but would try Ubuntu if I really pressed her to try it.

I doubt I would press her to use it. Unless it is simply mind-blowingly awesome.

At the same time, she would be the first to admit that when I made the decision to totally ditch Windows a few years ago resulted in nothing but big improvements, and fewer frustrations, in everything that she does with her computer.

My question is who is going to pay Microsoft the DRM license for using Netflix? 'Cuz, I doubt Canonical is going to be paying that. And that might be all it takes to keep Ubuntu phone on the sidelines.

But I hope Ubuntu takes off in the mobile space. The people of the world would get noting but greater freedom and would be able to keep bunch more cash in their wallets.

I just want to have the same type of relationship with my phone carrier that I have with my cable ISP. I don't need my cellular carrier to be my tech nanny. I just want a simple network connection, that is it, I will take it from there. I'm a big boy and would like to make my own choices.

I'm sorry sir... But Who is the tinkerer at the wsj? I know it's not Walt 'I want to make love with my iphone' Mossberg. And I know it's not Katherine Boeheret. Walt is, Imo, the biggest apple fanboy in the mainstream media.

I'm a desktop Linux user of ten years. Ubuntu has squandered its popularity on the Linux desktop. Ubuntu was the most popular Linux desktop for several years running.

Unity changed that. Users left in droves. Making a desktop computer look and work like a smartphone pleases very few desktop users.

Shuttleworth obviously thinks he is the next Steve Jobs, and he has developed an ego to match. Shuttleworth is contemptuous of users who disagree with him, and the Ubuntu forums are heavily censored. Saying Unity is the wrong direction for desktop computing gets you banned and your posts disappeared.

The Unity Lens application sends your local searches to Amazon.com. What Jobs, er, Shuttleworth tells you adds up to “too bad, we already own all your data”.

I used to recommend Ubuntu to anyone who wanted to try Linux. No more. Now I recommend Mint or Fedora.

Ubuntu has turned evil, maybe not as bad as SCO (who tried to destroy Linux), but at least as bad as SUSE (who got in bed with Microsoft).

For 2012, Ubuntu is in third place, behind Mint and the resurrected Mandriva (formerly known as Mandrake) which is now called Majeia. I expect Ubuntu's decline in market share and reputation among knowledgeable Free Software users to continue.

My best friend is a Unix and Linux sys admin and all around guru, and he told me almost exactly what you say here Tony. He said when Ubuntu started to shove people through Amazon, he bolted for Fedora, since he works with Red Hat at work anyway. If Ubuntu has already started to push away the hardcore Linux fan base, there is little hope to win anyone else. I still do hope, somehow, that they gain a margin of success. Its only better for all of us as consumers.

No, no, no... First, Mageia is a _fork_ of Mandriva, not the resurrected Mandriva. Mandriva still exists, and has just launched OpenMandriva for the desktop space, similar to Red Hat aligning with Fedora project and Novell launching OpenSuse. Also, Novell, not Suse, was responsible for the Microsoft deal. Suse is no longer part of Novell, but rather part of the Attachmate Group. Lastly, your ranking is based on Distrowatch hit rankings and not marktetshare. Ubuntu is still the most widely _used_ desktop Linux. Mint and Mageia have not taken over. They've only taken over the interest tracked by Distrowatch. However, I fully expect Fedora or someone else to take this over in the next year or two.

I would use the hell out of this!

Tony - Who the hell doesnt want their software to be evil? You aren't forced to unity... there are choices, and if you are running linux as your desktop for 10 years as you claim you should be able to customize it.

Yes and no... You see, there are those of us that aren't bit and byte savvy that use Linux. And, if you've run a KDE-centric distro all that time, converting a Gnome distro to be KDE-centric is a daunting task. Yes, it can be done, but the results aren't always what you want them to be.

For me, and this is my personal opinion, unless Conanical makes their own hardware, this will be kinda like what raspberri pi is... I got rpi to tinker with but i went back to my mac and my windows pc for a more real world experience. Im afraid that this is almost the same but only software.

Also we gotta give things a chance, sure wish people would of gave WebOS a chance, it could of been so huge.

WebOS WOULD have been HUGE had HP, better yet, Palm used a better marketing technique. I came back to my OG sprint pre due to a broken phone, and man I feel at home... WebOS is just a joy to use. Hope Open WebOS gets some nice hardware..

I think Jerry hits the nail on the head as far as the carriers in the US are concerned. Even Apple had to dedicate itself to AT&T in the beginning in order to get into the market. If Ubuntu really wants to keep the whole "Open" thing going, I only see one, true way of doing this. They need to get with a phone OEM (Likely the biggest maker they can find that is NOT Samsung, HTC, LG, etc since those would likely not want to anger the big US carriers. Maybe Huawei, ASUS, or someone like that), and have that OEM sell the device as an unlocked, penta-band GSM device directly on the Internet to anyone in the world that wants one. Yes, the phone would probably be around $500+, but you could fire up that joker on any GSM carrier in the world and have your phone and OS just how you want it. Its an idea that "might" catch on, and could finally start the revolution to break the stranglehold that is the big carriers in the US (yes, I am probably dreaming :) ).

As a Linux user for many years, I can tell you that Ubuntu, still, is just throwing darts in the wind, hoping to get something profitable. Ubuntu has no solid strategy to be profitable. It can't figure out how to make free software sustainably without the owner financing it all. Here's why: Ubuntu is always late to the game. Ubuntu came about after Linux had already matured and major Linux distros that once sold boxed retail units figured there was no profit to be made on the desktop. So, they came along and gave it away for free. Yeah, that worked... They still haven't made a profit and they even scooped up 1/3 the market of Linux users. Then there was preinstalled Linux. Too little too late... Netbooks already aligned themselves with other distros when they shipped and moved to Windows in a smart move before Ubuntu could get their hooks on the market. Dell provided Ubuntu notebooks, but buried them on their site and charged more for the free OS than Windows. Now, it's mobile ARM devices. After Google and Apple have already demonstrated that no other OS can survive in this climate, they come to the party after pretty much everyone else failed, and still haven't delivered an end-user product. It will fail, as a result.

It's not that Free software, as in FOSS, can't make it in the marketplace. It's evident that Mozilla has done well, and so has Google. However, Google, in particular, uses the software to bring users back to their money maker - search. That information collection and search result sales makes it work. And, they were a pioneer in the mobile space. Yes, they came after the iPhone, but they were still early in the space and had time to catch on. Ubuntu doesn't have the foresight to do that.

The futility really reaches a head when you note that no mobile OS stands a chance without serious patents either in the portfolio backing it up, or being licensed. Canonical can't afford anything like that. They could make some money by having a cool proof of concept, patenting anything on it they can, and then licensing those out (even if they don't ship a single unit themselves.) And if they did, they would be the "Free software poster child" that bought into the patent system and they will forfeit all of their goodwill in the FOSS community if they try to play the patent game. The only way Canonical stands any chance at all in this is if serious patent reform happens in 2013, but there's really no way that is going to happen. So, no matter how good it is or when it comes out, this is basically a non-starter. Best we can hope for is that some of the features will inspire the engineers at the real mobile OS companies.

I'm not sure the way of the future is a more advanced OS. I think Google has it right by just running everything through a browser. The browser applications will support everything else.

I think Linus had it right to begin with, that the purpose of an OS is to let programs do their thing - nothing else. It seems that with this new OS (although I'm pretty pumped and will try it in a second), is moving away from that.

Although, I love the idea of a Linux kernel running a beautiful browser with all the functionality of a device. That's not too far fetched.

I agree that ubuntu as a mobile os has some hurdles both a few comments in this article are not really true anymore.

Most rooting/modding is done to enable features that carriers don't want people to have access to like wireless tethering - Not true anymore, both Verizon and AT&T's share plans include Wireless Hotspot access. They big two aren't fighting Wireless Hotspot usage as they once did, they've accepted it, and if you look into there current data prices they are really charging everyone for it now. $60 for 2GB on verizon, hrm $30 for 2GB of data on the old plan, but $30 for tethering on the old plan = you guessed it $60

Most rooting/custom roms are done for other reasons now, being able to backup your phone easier, dejunking the stock roms, improving battery life, customizing the functionality of the stock rom, or installing AOSP. Without wireless tethering the only thing the carriers would have to fear is changes to the radio software, and that is rarely done. I'm sure ubuntu could find a way to lock away the radio firmware while having the rest of the OS open, HTC already does it with their online unlocking tool.

Also I think theirs a little US bias here, Canonical is not a US based company, they come from across the pond, What's to stop them from releasing GSM devices themselves directly?

That said I too really love the look of the OS and I'm itching to get one in my hands, I hope they can make a go of it. But it's still very iffy, they have quite a few hurdles.

I really would like to see this succeed, I really do...
However as a former Maemo enthusiast and Nokia N900 owner, I can't help but feel a sense of déjà vu with this story and knowing how the story will end.

I don't hear much on AC about folks running Ubuntu on their Nexus 7 tablets.
Have you tried it yet Jerry?

I really don't like what Canonical has done with Ubuntu. It's a big bloated ugly mess! I'm not saying that every distro needs to be as minimal as Arch, but I can't stand the amount of social networking and cloud services that have been crammed into that hideous turd and purple themed GUI.

Sadly there will not be a Linux OS that will become popular, maybe hacking other devices to install Linux yes but a totally owned Linux phone....never, Linus is really for those people who want to play around with settings none of us would even think about, like the camera flash length and the tone level for making calls.Linux has always been for techno people and never been developed for a complete new customer base, that is something a lot of the Linux fanboys are proud of and dont want to change, they dont want a system where just anyone can use it they want it to be just complicated enough to be useless for anyone that just wants a device to work.

Imagine having to edit app files to get them to work or loading a new piece of software that had problems that needed a complicated editor to resolve. No way Linux will be popular on Phones until it comes out of the hole it has been stuck in, until it realizes that not everyone even know what file structures are never mind how to navigate them.

I think that one of the advantages that Ubuntu Phone has compared to Android and even Windows Phone and Iphone is that it already has a desktop version that can work in full sync with it's mobile version creating a true ecosystem uniting both systems into one, something no other manufacture has provided yet.
So when carriers sell Ubuntu Phone they can recommend Ubuntu Desktop for their clients if they want to actually have 2 machines working as one! You can use the same apps in both, deal with the same file types in both...etc...

This "advantage" is definitely the "Trojan Horse" of the Ubuntu army....lol

Everybody that seems to be heaping on the "THIS ISN'T GONNA WORK, CUZ THERE'S ALREADY ANDROID AND IOS AND THEN RIM AND WP8 AREN'T DOING GOOD, AND MEEGO GOT DROPPED AND UH WEBOS AND STUFF" is pretty blatantly blind to the fact that this is probably going to target EMERGING markets. Like India, China, etc. They already have major hardware partners for their desktop OS. (Unless you think Dell, Lenovo, HP, and Asus are nobody companies) Why wouldn't cell phone manufacturers also pair up with them? Other than Samsung (who actually make money) and Motorola (who are owned by Google) none of the other OEMs seem to be doing all that great. Also they're already marketing towards enterprise users, as a few astute people seem to be pointing out. Canonical already does this. They do this very well.

Of course, you will be going "Yeah, but ANDROID" but have you ever used Android on a low-end device? It's horrible; this promises to be better. Faster. Easier on the specs. Also people in other markets who might not be able to afford/want/need a desktop/laptop will be able to dock it and have that full capability. It's promising to be a much more immersive experience for their product. The only real caveat that I'm seeing is a lack of apps at this time. Of course, all they need is a few good core apps: maps (which I believe I saw google maps in the keynote video as one of the html5 apps Shuttleworth mentioned), a good calendar, a camera, a browser, a text editor, and some kind of music player. If those core things are allotted for, enterprise users will come on board, and average users will gain enough tread that I think you WILL see Android apps start to be ported over. Either that or somebody is gonna come up with a compatibility layer for .apks, a la WINE. Time will tell.

Canonical isn't going to try and trump the two big boys in the American and European markets. That would be suicide, which is what RIM and Windows/Nokia are attempting right now. No, they're going to find their niche, and then expand from there. People seem to forget that Mark Shuttleworth is neither stupid nor a bad businessman, he's a very successful multimillionare.