Canonical is finally poised to enter the mobile market. After years of teases, promises and demos, the company has locked up the first two manufacturers of Ubuntu phones. Meizu and BQ Readers will be releasing handsets with the Linux-based OS installed on them sometime in 2014. Details about release date, price and specs are still to be determined, but we were told to expect more info at Mobile World Congress (which kicks off this weekend). The list of supporting carriers also remains a mystery, but at least we know that there will be consumer-ready Ubuntu phones on the market before the end of the year. Mark Shuttleworth, Canonical's founder, is keeping things close to his chest, but he did say that two more manufacturers with "household names" should be coming on board in 2015.
The bad news is that neither of these manufacturers has a large presence in US, so the chances of picking up a high-end Ubuntu phone on Verizon in 2014 is pretty slim. But Meizu is well established in China and should help the fledgling OS build visibility, while BQ Readers has a presence in Spain. Shuttleworth said that part of the reason these two particular companies were chosen was because of their "tactical" method for delivering handsets to specific markets with carefully targeted features and specs.
The next big challenge will be luring developers to the ecosystem. Shuttleworth aims to have the top 50 mobile apps on Ubuntu by the end of the year, which is a noble, but ambitious goal. Right now, big names Evernote, LastPass and Grooveshark are already enlisted, but there's still a lot of work to do. Presumably Canonical still has a few cards up its sleeve for MWC, so stay tuned.