LIVE FROM MOBILE ASIA EXPO 2014: Creating a base of user advocates from existing “fans” of Meizu and Ubuntu will be key to driving the early success of Ubuntu in the mobile market, Cristian Parrino, VP of mobile and online services for Canonical, told Mobile Asia Daily.
“Our objective for the first phase of launch is to create the first few hundred thousand advocates. Only when we have these advocates in the market, when there are people talking about it, will we go into physical retail,” he said.
Canonical announced its partnership with Meizu to offer Ubuntu devices in the Chinese market ahead of Mobile World Congress in February, alongside a deal with bq targeting Europe.
And while the company is using Mobile Asia Expo as an opportunity to provide an update on its progress bringing devices to market, Parrino acknowledged the challenges of bring a new platform to market, especially when it will face fierce competition from Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS, and Microsoft’s Windows Phone.
“We want to get the first devices into the hands of people who already love the respective brands, will have a little more tolerance for the first version of something new, and we’ll have a little more opportunity to talk to them about what’s new. As opposed to sticking it in retail, where the guy is just going to sell Android.”
Central to the new proposition offered by Ubuntu in the mobile space is what it calls Scopes, which enables operators, device makers, developers and publishers to integrate content into the device user interface.
“From the very first time a smartphone came out, there has always been a grid of app icons. 15 years later, it’s still a grid of app icons. What we’ve done is look at what people use the most on a phone, and expose that directly, without having it hidden behind apps or stores,” Parrino said.
“I think we’ll come out with something that’s really different for users, something that really brings out their favourite content and services as part of the UI, without any barriers.”
Ubuntu also faces the challenge that with hundreds of millions of users already, its rivals are already supported by a large apps and content ecosystem.
Parrino points to two things the platform has in its favour: the fact that millions of developers worldwide are already familiar with Ubuntu, even if they are using it to build apps for other platforms; and the fact that Canonical has made it “dead simple” to come to the platform, without needing to create expensive native apps to target a new OS that has no user base.
“There is no magic answer to the ecosystem story. There’s no magic bullet. But we have a number of cards that we can play that give us a good head start,” he said.