Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu platform, is to focus on “cloud and IoT, rather than phone and convergence”, having failed to generate much traction in the devices market.
“I took the view that, if convergence was the future and we could deliver it as free software, that would be widely appreciated both in the free software community and in the technology industry, where there is substantial frustration with the existing, closed, alternatives available to manufacturers. I was wrong on both counts,” Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth wrote in a blog post.
“This has been, personally, a very difficult decision, because of the force of my conviction in the convergence future, and my personal engagement with the people and the product, both of which are amazing,” he continued.
Canonical spent a number of years positioning Ubuntu as an alternative to Google’s Android, focusing on the premise it would be possible to use the same platform to power a range of devices, including PCs, tablets and smartphones. At one point, it was also seeing some success generating operator backing, including from some high-profile players.
But device vendors were not as quick to jump on board. Canonical worked with partners BQ and Meizu, but devices did not make it into the mainstream – despite assertions that there were other interested parties.
Canonical is not the only company to have struggled to find favour for an alternative smart device platform. Mozilla’s Firefox OS fell by the wayside, while Samsung is focusing its Tizen platform on wearables and smart TVs with limited exposure in the smartphone space.
Jolla also struggled with its Sailfish OS, although a change of strategy does appear to be generating some positives in some markets.
In early 2016, Shuttleworth said the Ubuntu platform was moving into “game changing” areas including NFV and IoT.
This week, Shuttleworth wrote: “The cloud and IoT story for Ubuntu is excellent and continues to improve. You all probably know that most public cloud workloads, and most private Linux cloud infrastructures, depend on Ubuntu. You might also know that most of the IoT work in auto, robotics, networking, and machine learning is also on Ubuntu, with Canonical providing commercial services on many of those initiatives. The number and size of commercial engagements around Ubuntu on cloud and IoT has grown materially and consistently.”
According to The Register, the move came after Canonical sought outside investors, who argued the venture was overstaffed and some projects lacked focus.