Ubuntu smartphones to arrive this year – but only in Spain & China

Ubuntu smartphonesThis year’s Mobile World Congress saw some positive developments for Android and Fanboi-haters, with the news that Canonical had finally found some hardware manufacturers to beging putting its Ubuntu smartphones together. Even so, little else was revealed at the time, leaving us guessing as to who might be making these devices, what kinds of specs they’d have, and how much they would cost.

Now things have become clearer, with Canonical divulging the names of its two manufacturers – the little known BQ Readers and Meizu – as well as the price point for these devices, which will fall between $200 and $400.

A spokesperson for Canonical told The Inquirer that these prices are for off-contract phones, which makes the devices significantly cheaper than the higher-end iPhones and Android phones currently available. However, it’s worth pointing out that these prices are only suggested, and that retailers have the option to shift them one way or the other, including reducing them through carrier subsidies.

The first batch of Ubuntu smartphones will hit the shops in Spain (from BQ) and China (from Meizu) sometime later this year. It’s not known if we’ll see Ubuntu phones in the US before the end of the year – most likely, Canonical is treating these two countries as a testing ground, before fine-tuning its strategy for mobile world dominance elsewhere.

One thing we do know is that these won’t be cheap and cheerful, low-spec phones like those running Mozilla’s Firefox OS. Speaking at Cebit, Canonical’s founder Mark Shuttleworth said that the company was building higher-end devices because it’s ultimate ambition is to create a smartphone that can also double as a full-fledged PC when docked with a monitor.

While a Spanish and Chinese release is only a tease for US-based Ubuntu lovers, at least the news confirms that the Ubuntu phone is indeed real and affordable, and it’s sure to be headed to these shores at some point in the future.

Microsoft scraps Windows Phone license fees?


Windows-Phone-7-LogoIn other mobile news, The Times of India is reporting that Microsoft is about to scrap license fees for its Windows Phone operating system for Indian OEMs.

Microsoft has apparently been considering this move for some time now, because the fees are seen as a barrier for entry by many OEMs, especially when the Android platform is available for free.

One unnamed senior exec at an Indian OEM told The Times of India that, “For our planned Windows Phone handsets, we are not paying Microsoft a licence fee. The company is obviously exploring new models for Windows Phone. It must have realized that the older model where it licenced the OS did not work out well, even with Nokia’s support.”

Microsoft hasn’t yet confirmed this news officially, but a spokesperson for the company did admit that “we have extensive programmes to help our partners build great devices. Our licensing model allows us to partner with OEMs across the world.”

One reason Microsoft might be unwilling to confirm this story is that it could upset its other OEM partners who still have to pay license fees for Windows Phone. Even so, it seems like a sensible move for Microsoft and it’ll be interesting to see if it happens elsewhere.