Ubuntu likely to struggle on the smartphone, says SugarCRM CEO

By John Leonard
06 Mar 2013 View Comments
ubuntu-touch

The Ubuntu Touch operating system, which is scheduled for October release on a range of smartphones and tablets, will struggle to find a niche in a crowded mobile marketplace.

So says Larry Augustin, CEO of open-source CRM vendor SugarCRM.

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"It looks really interesting and I will definitely try it," he told Computing. "But I'm wondering if there is enough market demand or market share left. It will have to be really good. Google's pretty good with Android, and they have a lot of money behind them.

"I'm thrilled they're trying it," he went on, "but will the broader market accept it? Will it really be that much better than what's already out there? I don't know. Apple created an opening for Android because it's a closed system whereas Android is open. Will Ubuntu have an advantage over Android because it's even more open?"

One way that Canonical is seeking to differentiate Ubuntu is by producing an operating system and applications that are truly device agnostic.

"Canonical has the opportunity to span mobile devices, desktops, laptops and servers so the user has the same experience on each," said Augustin. "Even Google doesn't do that. They're trying but they're not there yet. It's a compelling place to be, particularly if you put a cloud behind it."

The cloud element refers to how a user's whole environment would be hosted in the cloud, from where it could be downloaded onto whichever device the account-holder happened to be using at the time.

SugarCRM is already available as a native client application for iOS, Android and BlackBerry (but, interestingly, not for Windows 8). There is also an HTML5 version that will run on a browser on any mobile device, but with limited functionality. So has SugarCRM developed a native Ubuntu app?

"We have not - it would be different than the Android version because that is all in Android Java. I can't see us building a native app there yet - but our HTML5 app will work on it," said Augustin. 

Augustin described his experiences in developing for the two main mobile platforms: "We develop for Android and iPhone. iPhone is far more difficult. Apple is so controlling. You have to go through the approval process. The rules are not consistently enforced as they review the application: you submit it once you get one answer, you submit it again you get another. Plus you have to compile the unique ID of the phone into a beta version, you're limited to 100 of those... whereas with Android it's just 'Do you want to install this unsigned third-party app? Yes. OK!'

"For Apple we have to plan ahead weeks to get through the process. We are one of the large vendors in the space but we're still small compared with Apple's broader consumer market. We have to fight to get to Apple's attention. That's the nice thing about Android. We don't have to get Google's attention to publish the app."

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