When Microsoft revealed its vision of Windows 10 Continuum applied on smartphones, it sounded almost like a dream. Imagine being able to use the same apps on the same device, but customized and optimized to fit in whatever display size is being used at the moment. But to those who have been watching the smartphone industry for quite a while, that dream might sound familiar. That’s because Canonical, the company behind the popular Linux distribution Ubuntu, made that same spiel almost two years ago and it seems it won’t be giving up just because Microsoft beat it to the punch.
Ubuntu’s vision for a unified software experience across multiple device form factors, which it calls “Convergence” was born when it took a stab at crowdfunding to make the Ubuntu Edge smartphone a reality. Back then it had a working prototype the relied on a special version of Ubuntu for Android, but its vision was to eventually create a native Ubuntu experience, with native apps that changed its interface appropriately depending on the device. In short, it’s a vision that is quite similar to Windows 10 Continuum.
Sadly, the Ubuntu Edge never reached its goal, which isn’t exactly surprising considering it was asking for a lot of faith and a lot of money. $32 million to be precise. And with that the promise of Ubuntu Convergence seemingly died. The Ubuntu Phone did continue eventually, as seen in the bq Aquaris E4.5, but the promise of convergence was nowhere in sight. With the announcement of Continuum, however, interest in Ubuntu’s Convergence has been revived and Canonical and Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth is taking the opportunity to reveal that an Ubuntu Phone with a “desktop experience” is still coming this year.
That said, Shuttleworth is being coy about the details, other than it has found an OEM that will deliver on that promise. No clue as to who this partner is, what specs the phone will have, how much it will cost, and when in 2015 exactly it will launch. Given how many might have been burned by Ubuntu’s still unfulfilled promise, there might be a bit of cautious optimism for those waiting for Canonical to make good on its word.
Mark Shuttleworth talks about exactly this in the first 10 minutes of the hour-long video below:
It now becomes a race to the finish line for Canonical. Microsoft is expected to release Windows 10 around July, but it won’t be until much later before it rolls out Windows 10 for phones. If Canonical plays its cards right, its mythical phone could be out the door before that happens, and history might remember it as the one that pioneered this feature. That is, of course, if it can really deliver this time around.