Ubuntu for Android has become extremely popular among enthusiasts. There was a lot of excitement around Ubuntu for Android during the Mobile World Congress. I was at the booth for coverage and I saw how people were excited about it. Ubuntu for Android, as I understand after talking to Mark Shuttleworth, is much more than yet another prototype. It's much more than just another Canonical project. It is undoubtedly a Linux geek's toy, but it is a real business device which, if executed well by Canonical, can disrupt the enterprise market.
I was reading some stories on the Internet about how Ubuntu for Android is not going to succeed and they have a point, but they are missing a very crucial point. They are missing the main point. Let's look at the areas where one may think Ubuntu for Android won't work.
Can Ubuntu for Android be a device for an executive who travels a lot? Can it replace your tablet or your laptop? If I am traveling and want to use Ubuntu for Android, I need to carry an HDMI cable, a dock, a keyboard and mouse and then I will need an HDMI enabled monitor to use my set-up. How am I going to find a HDMI monitor at the airport? Won't it be easier if I just bring my laptop?
I spoke with Richard Collins and he also agreed that there are some limitations when it comes to mobility.
An exciting scenario, which one can easily blow away is, you can bring your mobile to your office, hook it to your HDMI monitor and use the full desktop. The problem is many organizations don't let their employees connect USB devices to their computers fearing data theft or virus attacks and here you are talking about bringing your own computer over which they have no control? That will be a disaster for an IT admin.
Ubuntu for Android won't work at home as it will be better to have a full desktop when you already have a HDMI monitor, keyboard and mouse. If you are outside the house, no one can use the computer. It's cheaper to get a desktop.
There can be similar scenarios where one may think that Ubuntu for Android won't work. And yes, Ubuntu for Android may not work in some of these scenarios and in my opinion that's not where the market for Ubuntu for Android is.
Ubuntu for Android can disrupt the market
Today many offices are moving towards cloud-based computing, where the data securely rests in a central data-center and users access it via thin clients.
“Ubuntu for Android allows an Enterprise to provision a corporate Android phone which is also a thin client and it is also the desk phone,” Mark Shuttleworth tolds me.
So, Ubuntu for Android allows an IT admin to provision a single devices instead of three – a PC, a smatphone and a desk phone. Ubuntu for Android will work as the desk phone, a smartphone for mobility and the thin client.
“The corporate IT can essentially provision a single device and then run Windows in the datacenter where is easier to manage or can be done more efficiently and can be delivered to any desk in the enterprise or over 4G network anywhere in the world,” says Mark.
Enterprises and governments already have their confidence in Android and Ubuntu. Canonical's Ubuntu is already approved by the General Service Administration for use by federal purchasers. "This gives government purchasers the option of using Canonical's Ubuntu as well as its Landscape systems management and monitoring tool," said Cole Crawford, CTO of Autonomic Resources.
Android was recently approved by the DoD as well (though only on Dell devices) so that puts the Android-Ubuntu combo in a very good position.
Dell can take advantage of Ubuntu for Android
Dell is already a very big government contractor and they have their own Android ambitions. Dell controls the entire hardware ecosystem and it can really offer some great solutions with Ubuntu for Android on Dell hardware. It can offer some great integration. Since the hardware will be developed by Dell, it can very easily comply with the requirements of governments or organizations.
Ubuntu for Android can give Dell a market it has been looking for in the smartphone space. Enterprise customers will have more reasons to buy a high-end Dell smartphone, which doubles up as a thin client, than to buy a thin client and a smartphone for their employees.
This is my hypothesis. I know Canonical's teams have better idea than I have. I can clearly see that Android for Ubuntu holds great potential. Mark has pulled the Ubuntu for Android trick extremely well, now let's see how he takes it to the market. Let's see how Canonical's eventually shakes the market.