Ubuntu smartphone OS: Does it have viable business use?

We take a look at the Ubuntu smartphone OS, which will be available for Nexus handsets, and ask if it has the potential to be used in the business environment.

What's it like to use

The Ubuntu OS relies on swipes from different edges of the screen to navigate. A swipe from the left hand side will bring up recently used apps, whereas swiping from the right hand edge will cycle between open applications.

The OS is visually appealing and has most of the commonly used features you'd expect from a mobile OS. However, we did see one of the demo devices running particularly sluggishly, so we're concerned about the ability of a smartphone to run as a fully functioning Ubuntu PC all-day long.

Check out the video demo below to see the Ubuntu OS in action.

Battery life is another mystery as Ubuntu has traditionally been used on PCs and laptops and has not yet been fully optimised for use on mobile devices.

Price

The OS will be free to download and install on your Android device. Canonical plans to partner with OEMs to launch devices with the OS pre-loaded starting later this year.

However, when questioned directly about the possible pricing of any handsets, Shuttleworth remained coy. He confirmed that Canonical would take a cut out of sales and also noted that royalties would be needed to be paid to a number of partners.

With Google drastically cutting the price of the Nexus 4 to just over 200, Canonical and its partners would have to launch a device at a similarly low price to have any hope of attracting users.

Launch date

Canonical is expected to make the Ubuntu OS code available to download in mid-January.

Devices with the OS pre-loaded are expected to start shipping in late 2013, but with no partners confirmed, this could change.

Verdict

Although visually appealing, the Ubuntu OS will not gain any significant traction in the market until it has strong backing from an OEM and a vast ecosystem. Even with these in place, it will be hard to catchup to Android and iOS in terms of brand appeal.

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