Rapid progress keeps development on target

An interview with Richard Collins, product manager for Ubuntu phones.

It’s been a hectic three months since the Ubuntu for Phones launch. Since making the first announcement in January, Ubuntu has continued to establish strong industry interest and even more so now that Ubuntu is available for tablets too. Canonical made yet another high profile announcement at MWC 2013 in Barcelona in February where it showcased Ubuntu for tablets alongside Ubuntu for phones. And to top a successful week in a wintery Barcelona, Ubuntu’s presence at MWC this year earned it CNET’s “Best in Show” award.

As well as the release of Ubuntu for tablets, an early build of the new codebase which will run on selected phones and tablets is now public. “In February we released the Ubuntu Touch Developer Preview codebase, primarily for developers and enthusiasts who can download and experience Ubuntu on their own spare devices. Doing this is important to encourage application developers in particular to take an active interest in what we are doing.” says Richard Collins, Ubuntu product manager at Canonical.

Also in February, the Ubuntu “port-a-thon” was launched. Richard: “Having announced availability of the code, we obviously want to get it out and into the Ubuntu community and running on as many devices as possible and this initiative had very positive feedback with the community quickly extending the variety of devices that Ubuntu now runs on.”

Further industry support has come with a key chipset giant’s backing for Ubuntu. “Gaining this major player’s confidence shows the high level of industry interest there is for a new smartphone OS that can offer a strong alternative, mainly challenging Android. We believe that Ubuntu has something special to offer and that our approach to offer a rich, highly designed user experience harnessing the full power of the hardware is compelling for both handset makers and end users, and as a result we are now actively engaging the major handset makers.” Richard says.

In March, Canonical ran the first-ever virtual Ubuntu Developer Summit (UDS) to strengthen community collaboration by giving anyone with a technical interest in Ubuntu the opportunity to participate and contribute. “The Summit’s blend of lively discussion, fantastic ideas and collective pooling of experience can only make Ubuntu stronger for everyone,” Richard says. One particular focus of the community event was to create a development collaboration with highly experienced mobile application developers working alongside Canonical design and engineering teams. This initiative established a developer programme set up to build a set of core and supplementary applications such as a clock, calculator, weather application which will ship as part of the October release to be embedded on Ubuntu phones in early 2014. “In addition, we are working with independent software vendors on a range of third-party apps to be ready for the launch. These will include location-based applications and games, the kind of applications many users will already be very familiar with” Richard explained.