Confusing matters, I've also heard reports that Canonical's Ubuntu for Android project isn't going away. Unlike the Ubuntu phone, Ubuntu for Android is designed to work within the confines of the Android ecosystem, but mirroring the dockable phone technology found in the Ubuntu phone concept. This would mean two conflicting projects competing for many of the same users.
Some believe that Ubuntu for Android will help to prepare people for the eventual release of the Ubuntu phone. They think of the first project as a lead in for the ultimate goal—dumping Android in favor of Ubuntu. But frankly, I think this is really silly. Why not put 100 percent of Canonical's mobile resources into the Ubuntu for Android project and stop trying to outpace Android? Again, I acknowledge the benefits of the Ubuntu phone, but I think this is too much too fast.
Despite my misgivings, Canonical seems convinced that their current approach is best—probably because the Ubuntu phone will allow mobile companies to brand the mobile OS with greater control than they can with the existing mobile operating systems. It appears that Canonical is betting on the egos of other companies to make the Ubuntu phone a success.
No one really knows how this will all turn out. One thing is for sure though—if Canonical can get the mobile carriers to show interest in a Ubuntu phone, it could lead to some fascinating opportunities.
So which will be the best path for Canonical to follow? Convincing hobbyists to flash their Android phones to run Ubuntu or reaching a deal with mobile carriers? If the Ubuntu team has its way, it will explore both opportunities.
Despite being skeptical about the success of the Ubuntu phone project, I will admit that Canonical is good at hedging its bets. No matter how impractical I might deem it to be, building the Ubuntu for Android project at the same time as they develop the Ubuntu phone project does provide Canonical with the greatest likelihood of success.
But I disagree with most Ubuntu enthusiasts about the eventual success of a Ubuntu phone. Right now, most Ubuntu fans are betting the phone will be the ultimate mobile "game changer."
I, on the other hand, realize the challenges that must be overcome in the mainstream world for the Ubuntu phone to be successful. Ad buys and partnerships with key mobile carriers are just the beginning of an endless list. My thinking is that Canonical will win the mainstream marketplace with their Ubuntu for Android project exclusively—not because one project is better or worse than the other, but rather because it's often more effective to colonize an existing environment than to "terraform" a brand new one.
I choose to leave the Ubuntu phone project to developers and hobbyists who will be excited about its performance prospects. For the rest of the world's smartphone users, however, the Ubuntu for Android project is where I'm placing my bet. The Ubuntu for Android project offers all of the same phone-to-desktop benefits without re-inventing the wheel. To me, this just makes more sense in the long run.