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The shotgun approach that both FirefoxOS and Ubuntu Phone took saddens me - I think they could have done very well had they focused on acquiring power/niche users instead of trying to be a mass-market consumer product from the get-go.

When the iPhone first launched, it wasn't adopted by everyone. I remember when, in ~2009, I and a few friends were the only ones I knew who had an iPhone. It wasn't until around 2011 that pretty much everyone I knew had a smartphone.

The basic business lesson is that you have to "cross the chasm" from early adopters to mainstream users - you can't just start selling a new product to everyone and expect to succeed without massive resources, and even then your product can still struggle (see: Apple Watch). Really, the only way to pull it off is to establish a niche market before targeting the general market. This book [1] does a great job of explaining the process - Mozilla and Canonical execs would do well to read it!

Sadly, many startups don't seem to have very good business sense and long-term thinking. "If we're not the iPhone yesterday, then we can't compete and we might as well 'pivot' and 'focus' on our 'core offerings'" - not true! There is a market for a user-respecting, fully (or even mostly!) FLOSS smartphone, but my parents certainly aren't going to buy one - they just got their first iPhone last year after all - so sell to me and people like me, not them. Then, maybe in 6-8 years, once the platform has matured and the FLOSS benefits become obvious, you'll start to break into the general market and start to challenge iOS and Android. But I don't think most companies are down for that; sadly, most are just focused on next quarter's profits instead of building something lasting.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Crossing-Chasm-3rd-Disruptive-Mainstr...




Building something lasting takes resources. Canonical simply had no chance. Even Microsoft, despite their aquisition of Nokia, their marketing budget, their massive dev resources, is failing on mobile. They even have their own convergence feature and it's not enough to attrack customers.


Microsoft made a mobile OS that didn't offer a compelling enough alternative to either iOS or Android.

iOS = Locked in ecosystem Windows Phone = Locked in ecosystem

Android = Alternative to iOS Windows = Alternative to iOS

On a technical level, Windows Phone devices performed around the same as iOS devices (fantastic), but lacked mainstream apps (the same problem as Blackberry) but without the backwards compatibility with Android apps.

Basically, Windows Phone was doomed to be the "not android, and not iOS" smartphone despite the great technical aspects of the OS.


Actually by 8.1 people that don't have the bugdet to buy iPhones and disliked Android where buying Windows Phones, up to the point they almost managed 10% world wide.

But then came the Windows Phone 10 reboot, with the promise that all 8.1 devices would get an WP 10 update, promise that they eventually broke by allowing only premium devices to get it.

So no, WP wasn't doomed if Microsoft managed to keep the roadmap steady, instead of rebooting left and right.

On the other hand, they seem to be having some luck with hybrid laptops/tablets. Something that most Android devices still do very poorly.


Not just that but they did it multiple times - 6.5, 7, 8, 10 - all pretty much incompatible from both a handset and even a developer's perspective. Imagine Apple doing that and having their first four iOS iterations all going in different directions every time, they'd also br in Microsoft's position now. They seem to have learned now and I could still see them turn around.


If, "Canonical simply had no chance", then does that mean we're stuck with iOS and Android period? And no other mobile OS has a shot? If you believe that, then you're certainly entitled to your opinion, but I feel like that's not the type of hacker mindset that moves the world forward.

I'm optimistic because I've never seen one of these 3rd option OSes take the approach mentioned in the Crossing the Chasm book linked in my earlier post - they all went straight to mass market vs. targeting a niche, dominating, and then using that beachhead to expand into other markets. If someone makes a legit or mostly-legit FLOSS mobile device, targets it at the appropriate audience, and slowly and patiently nurtures an ecosystem, I think a 3rd option can succeed.


I heard the same thing about desktop Linux for years. 200 distros later, guess what, Windows is still king and Apple is still selling boatloads of pricey machines.


I agree that Linux on the desktop is not a mass market consumer product in 2017, but are you saying that we should just accept that and move on? What about innovative disruption and building the future we want?


I won't tell you what you should or shouldn't do. I will, however, tell you that Apple and Google won the mobile OS game and both of them are working on the next big thing: AI.


Blackberry "won" the mobile OS game in the early 2000's, but look what happened to them: Apple came along with a better product and now Blackberry is pretty much a joke looking for a punchline.

No market is ever truly "won" - they are all susceptible to disruption, no matter what monopolies or duopolies may exist. Not saying said disruption is easy, but it is always possible, and personally I think it is something worth pushing for vs. settling for the status quo, esp. when said status quo is either closed (iOS) or not very user-respecting (stock Android w/Google services).


Again, you're talking like the Linux fanboys I've been hearing for years: "Vista is total crap, it's only a matter of time before Linux takes over", "Windows 8 is a disaster, this is the year of Linux on the desktop!", "Windows 10 is a privacy nightmare! It's only a matter of time before people wake up and switch to Linux", "Steam on Linux? Game Over Microsoft! loll", etc...

Now, you are absolutely right that no market is won forever. Like you said, Blackberry was once king of the hill and was toppled by Apple. But again, like you said, Apple had a better product (and the resources to bring it to market).

So now, the question is: what's the next thing? The next "winner"? Where's the better product than iOS and Android today? Sailfish? Tizen? Mer? Fuchsia is in development at Google and looks intriguing, plus it's open source. What else could "win" mobile?


Not really sure how to respond to your first paragraph, but I'll take a stab at it. All I'm saying is I think there _was_ a viable way for Canonical to bring Ubuntu Touch to market, they didn't follow that path, Ubuntu Touch failed as a result, and I wish that things had turned out differently. Had they followed the approach outlined in Crossing the Chasm, I think they had a decent shot at upsetting the status quo.

^^ I don't see how the above makes me a Linux fanboy?

As far as the next "thing" or "winner" goes, I'm not sure what that will be. My only hope is that it's not locked down and non-free by default like mobile operating systems have been. However, seeing the way AI and such are shaping up, I'm skeptical that we're not headed for a very closed, proprietary future with few if any viable alternatives to the mainstream offerings of Apple, Google, Amazon, etc.

I don't believe that a "better product than iOS and Android" exists today. Sadly, Ubuntu Touch will never be that better product, nor did Canonical ever really give it the opportunity to be.

So, what could "win" mobile? Given that the smartphone market has basically matured, the only two viable approaches are:

1. Develop a niche product that could eventually grow into a mainstream offering, or 2. Build the next "big thing"

Unfortunately, Canonical tried to make Ubuntu Touch a direct iOS/Android competitor from the get-go and they barely made it to market before everything folded, so I'd argue they tried to take a 3rd approach and failed. Right now, I don't see anyone who's really taking either of the above approaches with much success, but I guess the good news is disruption _is_ coming. When and how, we'll just have to see, but one thing is for sure: Ubuntu Touch is out of the running.




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