Canonical's Ubuntu Touch project, which aims to turn smartphones into fully-fledged portable computers, lives on with the news that the company has signed a hardware partner following the failure of its crowd-funding project.

An off-shoot of the company's Ubuntu Linux distribution, forked from the Debian distribution following community dissatisfaction with the frequency of updates, Ubuntu Touch was first teased in 2012 as Ubuntu for Android. At the time, the project took the form of a virtualised Ubuntu installation which could run on top of Android; a smartphone thus equipped, the company promised, could be connected to a monitor, keyboard and mouse and used as a traditional desktop computer then removed from its dock and reverted to smartphone mode again.

Early this year, Canonical switched the project into Ubuntu for Phones, which ditched the requirement for the device to be running Android and instead offered a full replacement operating system. In July, the company took to crowd-funding service Indiegogo to request a mind-boggling $32,000,000 to build prototypes dubbed Ubuntu Edge with promises of ultra-fast processing, 128GB of storage and masses of RAM.

Unsurprisingly, the project ended in failure with less than half of the required funds being raised. While that may have put paid to the company's dreams of becoming a smartphone OEM, however, it hasn't killed the operating system now known as Ubuntu Touch.

Speaking to CNET during the LeWeb conference this week, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth claimed that his company has signed an agreement with a hardware manufacturer to produce the first Ubuntu Touch handsets. Although Shuttleworth refused to name names, he claimed that the resultant devices would be high-end smartphones and launch some time in 2014. During the same interview, Shuttleworth also claimed to be in discussions 'at the board level on four household brands' for more Ubuntu Touch devices. 'We've shifted gears from "making a concept" to "it's going to ship" - that has a big impact on the team,' Shuttleworth told the site.

Sadly, Shuttleworth remained silent on pricing, specifications and availability - but expect any Ubuntu Touch devices to appear later in the year, at a price premium over Android handsets and with considerably more sedate specifications than the proposed Ubuntu Edge.
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October 14 2021 | 15:04