Ubuntu's Tablet Ambition: Doomed to Fail

Ubuntu's dreams of being a player in the tablet market appear to be destined to fail.


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Posted November 14, 2011

Matt Hartley

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For several years now, Ubuntu and other Linux distributions have worked to make their Linux releases available as a pre-installed option whenever possible. Some of the most famous examples are the Linspire and Xandros offerings that were once found at Sears and Walmart.

A few years after these flopped, Dell introduced PCs pre-loaded with Ubuntu. However, each of these pre-installed efforts met with an untimely demise. The PC sellers blamed the lack of demand, while others such as myself blamed the worst PC marketing attempts in history.

The pre-installed Linux PC failure in big box stores coincides with the inability to clearly identity the target of who would want the Linux PC. I feel confident in saying this, because other vendors that sell Linux PCs exclusively have done very well for themselves. Even when targeting non-Linux enthusiasts, the target message was always clearly spelled out.

Therefore it stands to reason that Ubuntu Linux could actually do very well presenting itself as an OS designed for desktop/notebook and netbook environments. So why is Canonical bent on getting Ubuntu on to the next generation of tablet computers?

From competitive to ultra-competitive

Considering the countless dollars Canonical has invested in Ubuntu, I have no problem in the company taking whatever course they see fit to develop their OS further. Even their choice of switching from classic Gnome to the Unity desktop is becoming more widely accepted, as Canonical is attempting to find a way to make Ubuntu unique.

Unfortunately, where I see Canonical making what will likely become another failed "Dell-like experience" is in Ubuntu targeting the tablet computer market.

This is a market where iOS and Android have already won the tablet wars. Even once mighty Microsoft has found that any effort in this space is pointless. And despite the painfully clear reality check, Canonical plans to take Ubuntu into this space by version 14.04!

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Why? What newly added value does Ubuntu bring to the table? I think it's awesome that Canonical wants to try new things, but at least they already have a foothold in the PC market. Why further delude themselves into believing that anyone will actually want an Ubuntu tablet?

If Canonical knows something that I don't, then that's great. And yet nothing about this plan makes any sense. Why enter a market so late into the game only to offer an experience that is years behind what the competitors in this space already have to offer?

And for those who want a third option, Linux distributions already offer a solid experience. I see a similar problem with Ubuntu entering the tablet market. It's too little, too late.

A niche within a niche

Google's Android tablets already offer a strong alternative to those who would rather avoid Apple's iOS. And thanks to Android's own variations and customizations out there, choice isn't really an issue either.

It is possible though, that Canonical might be looking to take Ubuntu 14.04 into this space with existing Linux enthusiasts. Even though I think the idea of an Ubuntu tablet is a waste of Canonical's resources, it's entirely possible that enough people would be interested.

With all the hoopla surrounding tablet sales over netbook sales, it's easy to see why Canonical would want to make sure they're heavily invested in making Ubuntu as tablet-ready as possible. After all, many experts agree that tablet sales are the future with today's consumers.

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Tags: Linux, iPad, Ubuntu, tablet PC

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