Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth announced Ubuntu for Phones on first working day of this year. From the looks of it, it has the potential to become a widely accepted mobile platform. Here we have a new mobile platform that will be involving the community in the design and development process.
Canonical has been previously criticized for having a “closed door” approach toward development, after which a “skunkworks” programme was announced late last year. With Ubuntu for Phones, the founder had already told at the launch that Canonical will be involving community in the development process and he has lived up to his words. Canonical are to seek community involvement in the design and development of 12 core apps for the Ubuntu Phone.
Apps: As of now, only 12 applications are being sought, but more applications will involve community contribution in the future. The 12 apps include some traditional apps that are found on most of the smartphone platforms out there and some are social apps since content is the king for any platform in today’s smartphone environment.
The 8 “traditional” apps include:
- File Manager
- E-Mail Client
- Document Viewer
The 4 “social” apps include:
- RSS Reader
These apps will sit along with other core apps such as Notes, Gallery and many more.
What should a designer do to get involved? Canonical has put up wiki pages for each of the 12 applications listed above. The pages will carry information regarding the purpose of the application, ‘user stories’ that will help in designing process; and link to relevant design ideas submitted.
Interested designers then will have to request access to the Ubuntu MyBalsamiq mock-up site where there will be a pool of all the designs created by other developers. Users with access to this site can comment and take inspiration or add new designs of their own. It should be noted that final visual designs aren’t being sought as of now, and they are asking only for wire-frame mock-ups because the visual element will be decided by the SDK. Ideas from best of the best designs will be considered when creating the actual app.
The Ubuntu for Phones platform that Canonical showed in the launch video was very laggy, but that’s just a pre-pre alpha stage of the all new platform. They are definitely working on it and it is growing out of its infancy as I type. Recently, Mika Meskanen, an Ubuntu interaction designer had a video up comparing the latest build of the platform to the original build, and it is clear that it had indeed received a substantial performance upgrade. In order to involve users in the development as well as testing phase, Canonical will be releasing Ubuntu for Phones ROM, which can be installed on any Android hardware easily. It’s said that this new platform will be using the same hardware design as what is used by Android, so manufacturers need not spend much on hardware and can use the existing hardware design that is used by their Android smartphones.