I was going to post this as a response to “Spreading UT to the world” but it’s become a tome and is perhaps a bit of a thread-jack, so I’m starting a new post.
I've been tracking UT since the original concept push by Mark Shuttleworth, but it’s only now I’ve had the spare finances to acquire a device to run it on, a Nexus 5. I was using Android for a year on a basic phone and it was detestable, even after ripping as much out of it as I could and stopping the non-essential services. I find that UT is a sweet delight, mostly working and I'm very pleased with it.
So my opinions, for what they’re worth, right or wrong. Forgive me if I’m repeating already-established ideas or countering established direction. I’m also largely speaking from the perspective of the platform being fluent with contemporary hardware because otherwise the scope is far too narrow. I believe from what I’ve read that this is something that is in-progress and achievable. I’m not a marketing person, but have interest in the area.
I think UT should be expectation/market-led vs the typically inverted techie position of “hey, we’ve a sweet phone here that does all this cool stuff, you’ll love it.” I guess all the Android alternatives are “really cool” too. My suggestion is to look at naturally aligned (and thus) receptive (niche) markets to gain traction with prior to worrying about wider deployment. With that said, I figure techie markets are where it’s at -- but the market-led approach remains the same -- an easy thing to garble with such a match up. I presume this is broadly what Canonical tried to do, but I happen to believe it still holds true and is a good approach.
Following on, I think there should a be discussion regarding the base image, regarding installed apps & settings/configuration. Plumb it for the target market and not for mass-market. It’s an evolution. This also opens the door to the install group approach based on intended usage (which could be worked as post first-boot downloads instead of adding them to the image.) Further: default bookmarks in the browser etc that are inline with the market segment and/or pulled in by the install group and so forth. Make the phone cozy with the target segment, not to an anonymous one-size-fits-all case.)
It's not enough for most people to know that the phone is 'a great privacy platform' despite media-pumped interest in this. That won't sell UT because in my view, the bulk of people don't care enough and (effectively) surrender themselves for that next feature-that-profiles-you so long as they get their candy. When I think about Alexa et-al, I wonder wtf is going on in the mindset of the average consumer. However, given that the news media loves scandals and privacy-related news stories, there is indeed a marketing funnel right there for UT to tap into and exploit.
Take a look at Blackberry. I'm familiar with the BB10/Classic and it's a beautiful device, but privacy wasn't enough for BB to maintain their share, despite the strong understanding that BB=privacy. Okay, touch-screen keyboard was an iOS/Android killer feature, but the Priv and Key-series phones haven't exactly turned the world upside down and they're Android-based. There are other privacy-led firms that haven’t cracked the Android market from within. Consider that the BB10 was equipped with a functional Android subsystem. It wasn't a game-changer with an established name, so why would it be for UT now? I get it we're not comparing like-things here, but it's in the same spectrum. Microsoft failed with their phone and although I've never seen one in the wild, my understanding is that it’s an excellent bit of kit. They also fitted Android as (presumably) an attempt to save it, like BB. Therefore, Android-compatibility does not save failing platforms.
Canonical dropped UT. Plugging in Android sure looks like familiar medicine, doesn't it?
Here is one crucial factor that differentiates Win/BB Android from UT: they were well-known and established platforms prior to pulling in Android compatibility. I would say that the "damage had been done" and retrospectively adding Android compatibility was too late, because the market-horse had already bolted. Thus, UT ‘debuting’ with Android-ability is notably different, perhaps significant, but… then why bother changing platforms at all? It’s the same conundrum those other vendors faced. However, it does grease the way for some must-have-reason why people would ditch Android for UT. If that conjecture holds true, its important. In that vein, Anbox etc., could be seen/treated in the context of platform migration and not for me-too compatibility. Let UT stand in its own light -- it’s a mindset.
A major-win would be to gain influential patrons in target-markets. By patron I mean well-known figures who would champion the phone as a matter-of-course. To pay off, the phone has to be 'fit for purpose' within that market. I think getting the phone to that stage could be managed in parallel with the right patron -- it would give them lots to relate in their social media, keeping interest (and familiarity) going. (Negatively: the phone would have to be close-enough-to-ready else it might prove counter-productive.)
That all said, patronage still didn’t help BB with Kim Kardashian using the Bold! My point here is that BB products weren’t fit for the mainstream market despite having an unofficial patron with the Midas-touch; privacy alone wasn’t enough to sell their products, even though that was her personal need/killer-feature. Note also BB chose not to engage her as a formal ambassador for their phones despite chatter at the time; this tells me that she’s not aligned with their target market. Well… yeah: mainstream doesn’t care for privacy, as BB experienced during their public keel-hauling years before.
Google recently and quite ominously stated "(The) Fuchsia is not Linux". I find this deeply troubling on many levels, most of which aren’t directly related to this post. Conversely however, I believe there is a window of opportunity here. If Google has sense, it will make the transition between Fuchsia and Android seemless, but regardless, that still involves a decision-making process for vendors and consumers. That’s where I think an opportunity could lurk. If it transpires Fuchsia is akin to Fascista, then vendors will need alternatives. (I don’t know much about the backend of UT but presumably there’s a whole bag of trouble brewing here?)
In that scenario, I guess we're talking about creating vendor alliances and so forth -- with funding -- and the sooner the better? There are independence questions here as well, obviously.
Anyway, key points in summary:
- Privacy doesn’t appear to be a killer-feature outside of niche-markets;
- Privacy-related stories are are loved by news media!
- Android compatibility wasn’t enough to save BB and Win-phone when retrospectively added;
- Migrating from Android has to be driven by an overriding need;
- Fuchsia might conversely drive need, especially with vendors;
- Gaining patronage/champions in target markets would generate buzz;
- Tailor the platform base install for target markets and not the (eventual...) mass-use scenario.