Mike Isaac

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Ubuntu to Join the Crowded Mobile OS Fray

ubuntuFinally, a third mobile operating system in the smartphone wars!

I say that in jest, of course. But, yes, another contender has stepped up to the plate. On Wednesday, Canonical shared more details on Ubuntu, the Android-based operating system aimed squarely at taking the third-place seat behind the two current market leaders, Android and iOS.

I won’t get too far into the woods explaining the differences from Android proper — which are mostly pretty nerdy — but Canonical is positioning the OS as “more immersive, less cluttered” and easily navigable. The company also claims it is strong enough to function as a PC, which means that it can hook up to desktop peripherals and work like any old computer (though that sort of implementation wasn’t a huge draw for Motorola).

Here’s the thing. RIM already has a strong (though waning) foothold in the market. Microsoft is pumping hundreds of millions into its Windows Phone bet. And third-place contenders of the past, like webOS, have tried and failed to gain a meaningful following.

Even if you disregard those big players, there are others fighting for the title. Firefox will compete with a browser-based OS, and then there’s the Linux-based Tizen in development by Intel, Samsung and others.

So it’s hard for me to see how Ubuntu, which isn’t expected to ship on smartphones until at least 2014, will put up a decent fight.

Still, you can’t win if you don’t try. Good luck with that, Canonical.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald