The idea was audacious: Combine Android, the most popular mobile version of Linux, with Ubuntu, the leading Linux desktop operating system, on a single smartphone that swapped between the two depending on whether the device was docked. Alas, Ubuntu for Android seems to have moved off the active roster as Canonical focuses on its own Ubuntu Touch project, and a new exchange on a Ubuntu project-tracking website seems to suggest Ubuntu for Android may be dead. (See update below.)
Matthew Paul Thomas, an interface designer with Canonical, opened a bug report on Launchpad.net, stating that "[The website] describes Ubuntu for Android as 'the must-have feature for late-2012 high-end Android phones'. Ubuntu for Android is no longer in development, so this page should be retired."
Well, that sounds ominous. (The thread in question has been scrubbed from Launchpad, but you can still see a Google-cached version of it.) Canonical developer Anthony Dillon then asked web director Peter Mahnke to check on the situation. Here's Mahnke's reply:
"We do check if this and the tv page should be kept on the site. currently the answer is yes. I have removed the 2012 text."
I've asked Canonical to comment on the status of Ubuntu for Android. Update: And here's what representative Marina Engelvuori told me:
"We are very happy with the reception of both the Ubuntu 14.04 LTS desktop, and the early Ubuntu phone images. We think these development show a desire in the market place for Ubuntu, and an Ubuntu for Android (U4A) solution would be a good way for it to reach users.
We still believe that U4A is a great product concept and that consumers would welcome the feature. The development within Ubuntu for U4A is complete. To take the development further requires a launch partner in order to make the necessary modifications on the Android side.
We are currently not in concrete discussions with launch partners, but we are still very much open to such a partnership. We are focused on Ubuntu for Phones at the moment, therefore we are not actively pushing for Ubuntu for Android. However, if a prospective partner steps forward, we are very much open to launching Ubuntu for Android."
So while the project is not quite joining Ubuntu One in the deadpool, it is in limbo, which can't quite be called a surprise. Canonical has yet to convince phone makers to preload Ubuntu for Android on phones, while phones running on the company's Ubuntu Touch OS are slated to hit the streets this very year, after thirst for the OS was fueled by Canonical's massive Ubuntu Edge smartphone crowdfunding campaign. There are only so many hands to go around, after all.