The Ubuntu Phone is set to make its debut in 2014. In a phone press conference this morning, Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical, the lead commercial sponsor of Ubuntu Linux, formally announced the company's plans to launch phone hardware this year.
Shuttleworth first announced his intention to bring the Ubuntu Linux operating system to phones in January 2013, though no formal hardware deployments occurred last year. That will change in 2014, thanks to hardware partnerships with Chinese smartphone manufacturer Meizu and Spanish hardware vendor bq.
"At the moment, our key focus is to grow our app ecosystem," Shuttleworth said. "Our goal is to have the top 50 apps from Android and iOS on Ubuntu Phone, and I'm confident that we will have a credible showing on that front."
While the formal announcement today is about the Ubuntu Phone, a tablet based on the Ubunu Linux operating system is also coming soon, Shuttleworth said, adding that the tablet market is an extension of the PC market for Canonical, which is already well-known in that space.
Canonical will show off both phones and tablets based on Ubuntu Linux at the Mobile World Congress event, which runs from Feb. 24 to 27 in Barcelona, Spain.
Shuttleworth said that he elected to go with bq and Meizu to manufacture the first Ubuntu Phones, rather than using a household-name consumer phone vendor. However, Ubuntu Phones will come to household-name consumer phone vendors at some point in 2015, he added.
A key part of the Ubuntu Phone promise is that of code convergence. Currently, 95 percent of the phone code is exactly the same as Ubuntu on the PC. The expectation is that as the Ubuntu Phone moves into full product availability, there will be 100 percent alignment between the desktop and phone versions, Shuttleworth said.
The next major milestone for Ubuntu is the 14.04 release, which is set to debut in April. Ubuntu 14.04 is a Long Term Support (LTS) release and is intended to be a stable platform for desktop and server users. Full convergence with Ubuntu Phone will not be part of 14.04. Convergence pieces will land in the 14.10 release in October as well as the 15.04 release in 2015, Shuttleworth said.
OEM partners are charged a fee per device, and revenues associated with the Ubuntu app store are shared with partners, Shuttleworth said.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.