Could Ubuntu prove useful on Android phones?

Earlier today we reported that Ubuntu would officially be making its way to Android phones, offering a full desktop experience. While the phones don’t run the OS on its own display, it is instead outputted via a docking station with a keyboard and mouse. This allows a single phone to run both a desktop and mobile OS, in theory creating the perfect device. Some of this could be very useful, but it could also take a lot of work to create a seamless experience.

We’ll start with the good. Many business users need to always be connected, and usually carry around a smartphone and laptop with them at all times. With Ubuntu for Android, they could carry around a phone and a very small dock, further cutting down on the need for space. On top of that, all files will be in one place, and the Ubuntu side can use the phone’s 3G/4G radios for internet access. The perfect solution, right?

On top of that, schools could use this as an alternative to limited tablets and expensive laptops. I was speaking with my good friend Dima about the matter, and he came up with an idea. Instead of schools giving out a tablets like the iPad, they should instead give out an Android phone with Ubuntu, along with a docking station. Many schools have or are considering giving every student a laptop, most of the time costing upward of $1000. Even a tablet like the iPad costs $500, a little on the pricey side for such a limited OS. A phone and docking station could probably cost the same as a tablet, while offering much more functionality.

But to every upside there is a downside. I’ve used Linux for years, and I can tell you that it isn’t made for the average consumer. While Ubuntu offers many user friendly features, but it still isn’t as easy to use as something like OSX or even Windows 7. Throwing Android into the mix could make it even more confusing, and many people probably wouldn’t even understand the concept. Hell, some people are still amazed that my phone can be used to replace a credit card.

From what I’ve seen, it isn’t the most smooth performance either. At one point I owned a CR-48, which featured a single-core Intel Atom processor. In the computer world, it was very weak, but it could still blow any modern phone processor out of the water (and don’t pick a fight with me on that one, trust me, it was much more powerful). I ran Ubuntu on it for the majority of the time I had it, and it was slow. Considering that Ubuntu ran slow on that, I would expect that the mobile version would offer similar performance. I could be totally wrong on that one, as the team at Canonical could be working to optimize everything. But I’m not expecting stellar performance upon its initial release.

So I pose the question: could Ubuntu really be useful on a mobile phone? In short, yes. But it will take a lot of work, along with cooperation from device manufacturers. We’ll also need to see some compelling docking stations, at a low price point. Once that is all in place, Ubuntu may have a place in the mobile market. What do you think? Can this truly be a viable replacement to desktop PCs? Let us know in the comments!

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