We were excited when first word of an Android / Ubuntu marriage started to form back in early 2012. We had some quality time with it at Mobile World Congress that year.
It was called Ubuntu for Android, and while it wasn’t the project we all dreamed of — Ubuntu on an Android phone — it was the next big thing. That next big thing is now the next dead thing. Canonical has confirmed that the product is no longer under active development, and won’t be until the team can find an OEM partner willing to play along.
So what was Ubuntu for Android? The idea is that your smartphone, when docked to an external monitor and paired up with an external mouse and keyboard, could seamlessly become a compact Ubuntu computer, giving you a full-fledged Linux operating system that can fit into your pocket.
Ubuntu for Android was a really neat idea, but it required a specific combination of hardware and software to pull off right. That meant each potentially compatible phone had to have its own smart dock, which explains the need for an OEM to play along.
It isn’t far off from Motorola’s Laptop Docks that would launch the web-based Webtop operating system whenever you inserted a compatible phone, a feature that is no longer a staple of their smartphone series.
It’s sad to hear that the project is no longer being worked on, but those are the breaks of a company like Canonical, whose only sources of revenue are from providing support for Ubuntu and raising funds in grassroots-like fashion. It was that reason that the company took to Kickstarter to try and get funds to build the Ubuntu Edge smartphone, a campaign which ultimately failed to attract enough dollars for them to go forward.
Canonical simply doesn’t have the resources and capital to play in the hardware world, which is why they’ve returned to their software roots. They’re still pretty involved with Android, with their Ubuntu Touch platform having been tested on a number of older Nexus devices. Unfortunately they’ve pulled support for all but the Nexus 4 and the 2013 Nexus 7, so there’s no telling just how invested they are into that project.