Canonical's promise to create an Ubuntu smartphone market will become a reality in October 2013. That's when the first Ubuntu smartphones will arrive, Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth said today. Now here's the big twist: For developers, the smartphone operating system is optimized for Samsung's Galaxy Nexus -- perhaps suggesting that Samsung plans to back the mobile open source operating system. Still, The VAR Guy remains skeptical. Here's why.

Shuttleworth apparently was in New York this week, speaking with The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets. According to The Journal:
  • Ubuntu smartphones will be available to customers beginning in October 2013.
  • Application developers will have access to the smartphone operating system, optimized for the Galaxy Nexus, in late February 2013.
  • Ubuntu will be able to run the same core applications across tablets, smartphones and
But how will Ubuntu smartphones hope to compete against Apple iOS (iPhones) and Google Android devices? One potential scenario, which The 451 Group LLC offered to The Journal, involves Ubuntu smartphones winning in heavily regulated industries, and “very security-conscious organizations, and where IT still have control over which devices people bring to work."

Um, that sounds like BlackBerry's territory. Indeed, BlackBerry devices caught on in the government, financial and health care markets because, historically speaking, they were considered secure and well-designed for corporate IT. Now, the BlackBerry 10 is ramping up for delivery.

Call Me Skeptical

Do Ubuntu smartphones really have a shot in the market? The VAR Guy isn't so sure. Canonical did a great job, initially, promoting Ubuntu on desktops in emerging markets. But an early mobile strategy -- targeting so-called Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) never really took off. And the Ubuntu netbook crazy flamed out nearly as quickly as it started.

Now, Shuttleworth is moving Ubuntu into a fast-growth but insanely competitive market. To succeed, Canonical will need the following parties on board:
  1. Independent software developers (ISVs) writing apps.
  2. Device makers selling Ubuntu smartphones.
  3. Carriers selling the Ubuntu devices.
  4. Consumers understanding the value of Ubuntu.
  5. Corporate IT managers welcoming yet another mobile OS into the enterprise, either in a managed or BYOD way.
Standing on their own, each of those five requirements is a tall order. Roll them up all together, and Canonical faces a tall challenge indeed.