RE: Lessons learned from the failure of Ubuntu Touch

Submitted by Scott Dowdle on Tue, 04/25/2017 - 17:37

I am NOT a fan of Bryan Lunduke.  It is a personal shortcoming of mine.  I watched him a few times when he was a host of the Linux Action Show.  That was a few year ago.  Anyway... I just found his know-it-all and smartass attitude annoying (perhaps I don't like the competetion?).  Then I attended one of his "Linux Sucks" presentations at LFNW a few years back.  Soooo annoying.  He sure has been milking that for years.  He is also a big social media person.  Ok, lots of stuff I loathe rolled into one.  I generally don't dislike people.  I mean, I don't even know the guy... but anyway.

Mr. Lunduke wrote an article for NetworkWorld (where he goes by Linux Tycoon) entitled, "Lessons learned from the failure of Ubuntu Touch".   Just look at his avatar picture.  Could he possibly be more pretentious?  In the article he makes the case that Canonical bit off more than it could chew by trying to make too many new things... which leads to his advice that the way to success for a Linux mobile project would be by starting small and then building on it.  Wow... that is "deep thinking".  Maybe he should change his name to Jack Handey.  But seriously, I believe he totally oversimplifies Canonical's goal and completely discounts their reason for having elaborate features.  The reason was to attract potential cellphone service providers who would want to license Ubuntu Touch and ship it on lots of devices... and then attract the hardware OEMs... or vice-versa.  Canonical's goal was definitely not for it to be self-installable by geeks.  While during the development phase they had to go that route... unless they had a flashy project they'd never be able to become "pre-installed".

Remember that kickstarter type campaign where Canonical wanted to design and build the smartphone itself... and do the software for it?  It ultimately failed although they did get quite a bit of pledges from true believers.  Just think what a nightmare that would have turned out to be if it had gotten backing?  I digress... and I mean no disrespect to Canonical or their fine employees.  It is just a big thing... and with that being their first hardware venture, a monumental task that was doomed to failure.  Canonical is better at software, right?

Being successful in the mobile space (for an OS, a system platform, or hardware vendor) is just as hard or perhaps harder than being successful in the gaming console market.  You pretty much have to have hundreds of millions or billions of dollars (pounds, whatever) to burn before you have a hope of succeeding.  You pretty much have to buy your way into the market.  And even with all of that, you might not be successful at gaining significant marketshare.  Just ask Microsoft.  How much did Google invest in Android before it started being successful?  It seems like forever ago but it was less than a decade, right?

I'm not saying a small, open source project can't be successful in mobile... but there are many different goal levels and meanings of success.  While Lunduke's advice on how to be successful might work for a certain group of open source developers, that was not what Canonical was going after.  They wanted to rival Apple and Android as much as possible... and show something that was impressive / to be proud of... not some beginner, we'll make it better later.. starter kit.  How do I know all of this?  I don't.  I'm just guessing... but at least I'm admitting it.

It would be nice to know where Mr. Shuttleworth thinks they went wrong... or what lessons they learned.  Now that would be interesting and revealing.  Hearing what someone completely outside the project (so far as I know) thought the problems were and how to fix them, not so interesting.