Phone and Ecosystem 1.0

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Strong Foundation

Jono talks about the newest member of the Ubuntu family.

The release of Ubuntu 13.10 was a very special release of Ubuntu. While many of you will have eagerly upgraded your desktops and servers to Ubuntu 13.10, we added a new member to the family with the very first release of Ubuntu for phones.

After a furious pace of development, the 1.0 version of Ubuntu for phones delivers an impressive punch. The system is simple to use, includes a first-run wizard to get you started, and includes functionality for the basics (making/receiving calls, texts), browsing the web, Bluetooth support, configuring your background/ringtones, searching online content with smart scopes, and more.

The image also provides a large number of core apps preinstalled (all built by more than 150 community developers) including clock, calendar, weather, music player, RSS reader, terminal, and more. We also included the first iteration of the new Ubuntu app store, filled with apps written with the Ubuntu SDK. This includes over 100 apps covering a wide range of areas, such as multimedia, personal information management, games, and social media.

The latter feature on the phone is actually a pretty significant piece of work. As anyone who has been around Ubuntu for a long time will testify, getting apps into the software center was traditionally rather complex: You had to build a Debian package and get it in before we released, then it needed a full code review, and versions could not be easily updated between releases. We tried to rectify this somewhat with some community processes, but it never really worked out.

We have since completely fixed the system. Now apps are generated easily from the Ubuntu SDK with a single click, all apps run fully confined and sandboxed, which means they don't need a code review, and the approval time goes down from around 3 weeks to around 5 minutes. It also means apps are smaller, they are more easily available across the different form factors, and apps written in the Ubuntu SDK can converge across multiple devices easily.

The front-facing part of this developer experience is a significant improvement, too. If you mosey on over to, you can see our brand new developer portal where you can find tutorials, documentation, guides, and more for how to write apps. We also built a full Ubuntu SDK, including IDE and template projects, to help get you started.

As you can see, Ubuntu 13.10 for phones is much more than just the software you load into your Nexus 4. The key reason for this work that my team has been focusing on is to build a strong content creator ecosystem in Ubuntu.

This work is important – very important. A good-looking convergent operating system across phones, desktops, tablets, and TVs is not enough to ensure Ubuntu's success. The key is content: movies, music, apps, and online services. Users care about creating, sharing, and consuming content, and building a community of app developers is key to building the tools in which much of this content will be created, shared, and consumed. This content is not buried behind applications; it is integrated right into the scopes and dash of Ubuntu.

The good news is that this work has been delivering solid results. Bear in mind that we were working to grow a community of developers before the platform and SDK were released and, even given those constraints, we have seen thousands of people signing up to help with the core apps on the phone and writing other apps, games, and content for Ubuntu. In pretty much all cases, the experience for these developers has been fun, smooth, and effortless, which is a testament to the quality of the platform we are building.

Some of you may be a little disappointed that the Ubuntu 13.10 Desktop didn't see more features. Well, the good news is that all the software running on the phone will form the basis for the fully converged desktop platform, too. As such, the work that went into Unity 8, Mir, the developer platform, applications, etc. was all an investment in the foundations for convergence across the tablet and desktop as well. Thus, when we ship this work, the entire platform will be running from the same set of software components. This makes delivering features, bug-fixing, and security updates much easier across the platform.

This is a tremendously exciting time to be part of Ubuntu! We now have the underpinnings of full convergence and an incredible platform to grow our ecosystem. Let's make the magic happen! l

The Author

Jono Bacon is a leading community manager, engineering manager, consultant, and author. Currently, he works as the Ubuntu Community Manager at Canonical, leading a team that grows, inspires, and encourages the global Ubuntu community.

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