Al Mobile World Congress, as you have already noticed from our article on Meizu MX4 Ubuntu Touch version, Canonical was also present, a company behind the well-known Ubuntu operating system, one of the most popular Open Source OS in the world.
At the fair we had the pleasure, the honor and the good fortune to have a chat with Cristian Parrino, VP Mobile and Online Services of Canonical, which, following the questions we posed, told us a little 'how the company will move and which direction will take Ubuntu Touch, especially as regards the Meizu MX4 and other possible Chinese mobile manufacturers.
In the first question we asked Cristian Parrino what they may have been, In his opinion, the reasons that led Chinese producers to have such a strong success on a global level.
CP: I Chinese were the first to understand that to enter a mature market, like that of mobile telephony, they must think differently. Looking at Meizu and Xiaomi, in China, these producers started from scratch, ignoring the retailers and operators, aiming from the first day on their first users, creating one brand awarness thanks to the trust they received, not investing in marketing or the like. This is what they are doing with Ubuntu, also for this between Canonical and Chinese producers there is a lot of synergy.
Giz: So why, among the many Chinese companies, was Meizu and its MX4 chosen for collaboration?
CP: Because Meizu was among the first companies to use the model also set up by Xiaomi, the sales one through its e-store by creating its own ecosystem. However, they were not the fastest, but they understood, as Xiaomi did, that in order to differentiate themselves from the rest of the market and to recover the lost ground from the very fast climb made by Xiaomi they had to offer something different, which did not revolve only around the apps. traditional. Something that could give added value to users and developers.
The other important reason for the choice, by Canonical, to collaborate with Meizu is linked to the international ambition that the latter, which is already present in several countries in an official way, including Italy (With Meizu.it, ed), even if not yet so massive and widespread as hoped.
The Canonical-Meizu partnership was born mainly for this, to allow Meizu to spread its brand and to make itself known better and more in the world, obtaining an important visibility.
Giz: Ubuntu is an operating system open source, like Android (if not more), but What is the policy for issuing source codes related to Meizu MX4 with Ubuntu Touch?
CP: The simplicity of developing services or applications, fundamental for Ubuntu Touch, remains the same regardless of the device manufacturer that intends to make smartphones with the mobile version of Ubuntu OS on board. The system code remains open source and it will be possible in the future to download the Ubuntu Touch version of the Meizu MX4, but if a developer wants to download the developer edition of the Nexus 4 he can still develop directly on that also for Meizu MX4 or for BQ smartphones, also equipped with Ubuntu Touch.
The main goal of Canonical is to create an operating system that points to interoperability: whatever the variant of Ubuntu, desktop or touch, all applications and services that are designed and implemented must work in both directions, regardless of nature of the device on which Ubuntu is installed. Canonical, with this philosophy, tries to avoid the fragmentation of the versions of the system, great problematic of Android.
Giz: Ma will we see, in the future, Ubuntu Touch also installed on devices of other Chinese companies and not? Cristian Parrino's answer was immediate and clear: absolutely yes.
CP: What started with Meizu and BQ is just the beginning of a long journey that Canonical wants to undertake to land, in a concrete and massive way, in the mobile market of smartphones, tablets and so on. Like all routes, the company is working and will work step by step to achieve its goal.
In this first phase of the journey, Canonical is focusing on the partnership with Meizu and BQ, two producers who understand and know how much Ubuntu Touch is an innovative system and that, at the same time, have the need and the desire to make, first , a change to the mobile market and to its product portfolio. At the same time, from the point of view of users, the current version of Ubuntu Touch is just the 1.0, at the beginning of its maturity both as regards the product, the maturity of the brand and the amount of services offered, but the Canonical's intent is to constantly improve more and more, starting as early as next week.
As we understood, therefore, the first point of the path is to offer, to the 30 millions of Ubuntu users in the world, a double choice through the two partners Meizu and BQ, to give it a choice and an alternative also in mobile, allowing it to extend your will to use the Canonical OS on your smartphone.
The next phase will be to extend the availability of these products to those who are not necessarily familiar to Ubuntu, but who, at the same time, wants to try something different.
According to Parrino we will need at least 12 months before we can see Ubuntu Phones in physical stores. If Canonical did it now it would be too risky, as its offer would be so different from the current ones that the average or "normal" user would not be able to appreciate or, perhaps, understand in its real nature.
Canonical's intent is to attack Android's busy market part. The reason why Canonical has a strong chance to reach this goal is the community that Ubuntu can dispose of: it will be the users and developers themselves who will spread the Ubuntu Touch platform. This is the philosophy that follows the success of Meizu and Xiaomi in China, that is to develop their ecosystem starting from the very first users who have decided to trust the brand, showing them an ever better product.
The last question that we have placed at Cristian Parrino concerns the offer that Ubuntu Touch can provide users, producers and the mobile market in general, compared to that currently present with Android, also in virtue of the fact that both Ubuntu Touch and Android are two open source operating systems.
CP: At present, entry margins for mobile device manufacturers are reduced and minimal. The ability to differentiate, to increase the number of entrances and the number of users who can approach a platform, is now linked to the services that one platform can offer over another; this is easily understandable also thanks to the great accessibility that the manufacturers now have to the hardware currently on the market, as it has reached a point where it is very difficult to be able to introduce a specific hardware that is not already present in the mobile market.
On Ubuntu the entry of new services can come directly from the community without going to create an internal fragmentation maintaining an extreme homogeneity.
This thanks to the entry of the Ubuntu Scope (a new method for the promotion and use of services that the user can enjoy, with an experience almost identical to that of apps, without the need to install applications manually, ed). At the same time, for the manufacturer, creating a Scope, which we could define as a feed / aggregator of content based on the theme, has a low cost compared to that required for the implementation of an app. All this is achievable thanks to the Ubuntu SDK designed and built by Canonical and also thanks to the particular UI designed by the company.
But what, then, is the real difference, for the producers, that leads them to choose Ubuntu Touch rather than Android?
CP: Manufacturers pay to use our operating system on smartphones. This may seem anachronistic because I often hear myself say 'How? Android is free! '. The reality is, instead, different: the producers who decide to create Android based products have the system codes available, but they have different costs for them, such as the development, implementation and optimization of the user interface, or even the costs of development of the updates that are at the expense and obligation of the manufacturer. High costs and low profit margins and, above all, the services offered, which count, remain Google and therefore the main gain is of this latter company. With Ubuntu Touch these costs are cut down because development, optimization, integration and updates are at our expense and, moreover, we offer producers the possibility of extending, differentiating and increasing the level of services offered, also increasing the entrances deriving from those services. This for the producers translates into an economic return ranging from 6 to 2 dollars per phone sold depending on the volume sold.
This is all that has emerged from the pleasant chat had with Cristian Parrino of Canonical. We hope to have allowed you to better understand what is happening and will happen in the future in the mobile world thanks to the entry of Ubuntu Touch as an alternative in a now saturated landscape.
Before closing, a small personal consideration: the choice to focus on Scopes rather than on an app store I think is the best choice that Canonical may have made, as competing with the Android, iOS and Windows Phone stores would certainly be a step. false, because the volumes of users currently interested and in possession of an Ubuntu Phone are not in the least comparable to those already registered by the competition.
We are very curious to see what will happen and how this operating system will evolve and, above all, how the partnerships between Canonical and the producers will evolve.
We would like to thank Cristian Parrino again for his kindness, clarity and his time during the Barcelona fair.
What do you think of Ubuntu Touch and the plan of future realization that we have expressed? Do not hesitate to write it down in the comments!