aNewDomain.net—The smartphone universe is stagnant. Apple iOS and Google Android updates are getting increasingly unexciting.
The problem is not the slowing pace of phone releases. It’s that there’s no true innovation of late in either industrial design or software. Apple iOS’s grid of icons is a yawner. And though Android has improved somewhat since Matias Duarte of webOS fame joined up, stock Android still has many issues. As for hardware design, Apple claimed intellectual property of its rounded corners. We need something new to shake stuff up. Someone other than Microsoft and BlackBerry, who are having to give incentives to developers just to get them to create apps.
I wish Ubuntu-based smartphones could be that shakeup product.
Image credit: Ubuntu
But wishes are just that. I doubt there’s even room for them. Android and Apple iOS devices so totally dominate the market, with Microsoft Windows Phone based smartphones and BlackBerry devices pulling up the rear.
I don’t think either Ubuntu devices have much of a chance in this horse race. And that’s just sad.
And it’s a shame. Ubuntu has some interesting features for the mobile set. It replaces physical buttons with swipe gestures and that it is able to run full Ubuntu when docked to a keyboard, mouse, and monitor. Swiping to navigate is not new — remember webOS? — but Ubuntu brings some other cool things to the table.
For instance, Ubuntu includes a bar on the left side of the screen that contains the 10 most used apps. That’s handy. Ubuntu also lets you adjust settings on any screen — just touch the status icons at the top of the screen. Unfortunately, the docking is a downer. It won’t draw widespread support anymore than the Motorola Atrix smartphone-docking station combo did. Even if Ubuntu has a better implementation, the docking station feature will likely hobble its chances in a market drowning with tablets, tablet accessories and ultralight laptops. And that’s just the first of the problems poor Ubuntu faces.
Widespread adoption for Ubuntu on a phone doesn’t have mass market appeal. Sad but true. The average buyer isn’t going to walk into a store and demand a smartphone that runs a version of Linux that will turn into a computer. Think about it.
Excepting geeks like me, people want access to the latest apps and the ability to easily access music and videos. They are looking for simplicity — not the complexity of Linux, an operating system the mass market has hardly heard about.
Ssmartphones need strong ecosystems to be compelling and Ubuntu based smartphones will be a victim of that Catch-22. Developers won’t build apps for platforms that don’t have critical mass. Microsoft and BlackBerry are having to give cash incentives to developers to draw them in. Newer players don’t have those kinds of resources.
As a result, their products will remain stuck with subpar ecosystems and apps and will not be able to compete with the already established offerings.
Based in Southern California, Seth Heringer is an IT pro, PhD candidate and a senior editor at aNewDomain.net. He also is co-host of the cult classic podcast, Attack of the Androids. Follow Seth on Google+ and contact him via his account there.