What Mobile Consolidation? Canonical Wants Ubuntu On Smartphones, Tablets

At least one company thinks the world hungers for another mobile operating system. Canonical, the company that builds and maintains Ubuntu Linux, is planning to release a version of their operating system for smartphones and tablets.

ZDNet scored an interview with Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth, who discussed plans for mobile Ubuntu ahead of Canonical’s developer conference this week. The timing is uncertain, as it doesn’t appear that Canonical has even started the project, but Shuttleworth said the company is seeing the same trends that all of us are: the world is embracing mobile devices built around touch-screen user interfaces.

Linux on the desktop PC remains a bit of a joke despite years of promises that it could supplant Windows and Mac OS as a true alternative. But the mobile world is certainly different, with Google’s Android using Linux code at its heart to help it become the world’s most widely used mobile operating system in just a few short years.

It’s not clear what Canonical and Ubuntu would bring to the table in a crowded mobile world. Already this year we’ve seen HP all but throw in the towel on WebOS development, paring the number of viable mobile operating systems from five to four. Still, only two are truly relevant, as RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) is moving as quickly as possible to embrace the QNX operating system across its flagship BlackBerry devices and Windows Phone struggles to find converts. And we’re already starting to see signs of “app fatigue” inside even big companies fed up with supporting multiple mobile environments.

There’s a school of thought, however, that if the mobile Web lives up to its promise that the underlying operating system becomes less important: apps will run on any mobile device in the browser. There’s another school of thought (articulated by Shuttleworth in the article) that current Android hardware partners are looking for another mobile operating system in the wake of Google’s decision to purchase Motorola. Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) and Windows Phone were expected to win much of that business, should things come to that end, but another Linux-based mobile OS that perhaps offered as much customization as Android could be appealing.