Ubuntu Sees Growing Adoption from OEMs, Will Capture 5% of the PC Market Next Year

At the ongoing Ubuntu 12.10 developer summit, Chris Kenyon, the VP of sales and business development at Canonical has unveiled Ubuntu’s ambitious expansion plans in the PC market. Ubuntu is already collaborating with OEMs to deliver Ubuntu Linux based machines. However, the good news is that the Ubuntu is looking forward to a 5% market share in the PC segment.

The advantage of buying a system with Ubuntu or any Linux flavor pre-loaded is eliminating the time spent in initial-configuration of display drivers, network components and syncing across monitors. These are common bummers, when we try to replace a new Windows box with Linux. However, Ubuntu has an extensive list of supported hardware, and this OEM deal will make the hardware support even better.

Phoronix lists some interesting points from Kenyon’s keynote speech.

Here’s some of the facts that Kenyon tossed out in his after-lunch keynote:

– Eight to ten million units shipped last year world-wide.

– Canonical will be opening their first Beijing office this year (their Taipei office right now handles most of their Asian operations since 2008).

– Last year Ubuntu shipped on 7.5 billion dollars (presumably USD) worth of hardware.

– Next year they expect to more than double these numbers to 18 million units world-wide, or what Chris says would be 5% of PCs shipping world-wide would be with Ubuntu Linux.

Finally, after years of vendor lock-in, the PC has finally been freed from its shackles. We hope to see an open hardware market, where the end-user has more choices and there are more than one prominent software development ecosystems.

The Ubuntu Developer Summit is taking place from 7th of this month and will continue until the 11th. The complete event schedule can be found here. The events to watch out for, include the one titled Next Steps for Hadoop on UbuntuApp Developer EventsUbuntu Mobile Use-cases and all events that focus on Ubuntu TV.

Windows Phone Executive: It’s “Business as Usual” with Windows Phone Updates

Windows Phone Blurry

In a blog post yesterday, Microsoft indicated that going forward there were two changes coming to Windows Phone updates: That they would put out an update which carriers could request, and that the weekly updates they used to post about the extent of deployment of the phone updates, were ending.

Needless to say, Windows Phone users and enthusiasts (including yours truly) did not like it. There was an uproar on twitter, as well as in the comments on the blog post, about how this was a regression. It was generally thought that Microsoft has in fact got push back from the carriers and OEMs who did not like being publicly held responsible for delayed updates to their customers.

However, Mary-Jo Foley says in a blog post today at ZDNet, that per Microsoft, it is business as usual. Greg Sullivan, Senior Product Manager with Windows Phone clarified in a phone call with Foley that nothing has changed as far as relationships with carriers is concerned. He said that carriers always had the choice of requesting an update to push to their customers’ phones. He also clarified that with the number of phones as well as carriers increasing, maintaining the detailed list of where the updates are per country, per carrier, per phone, would become unwieldy. As a result, they decided not to publish the granular updates anymore.

Personally, I understand both these points. In fact, as far as updates are concerned, we knew around the time of the initial launch that carriers had the right to skip one (and only one) update, and since all Windows Phone updates were cumulative, customers would get the older updates in the next cycle. Given that Windows Phone is going to expand in terms of markets served, carriers supporting it and OEMs building devices for it, I also completely understand that maintaining the list on a weekly basis would in fact be an extremely painful exercise.

The issue clearly then, is communication. Why were these two points not included in the original blog post? It would have helped put some color to the decision they made, rather than create unnecessary angst among the public and lead to irresponsible speculation about the actual cause of the change.

While I do understand these points, I am still absolutely not ok with the lack of understanding where my update is, and how responsible my carrier is about getting me the latest fixes. Given that the carriers have absolutely no interest in putting more time and effort in servicing customers within contract, I am going to assume they are guilty until they prove themselves innocent.

AT&T, are you listening? Man up, and send the updates out to us. Yes, that includes the earliest adopters on 1st generation phones like Samsung Focus.

Windows Phone Updates Are Now Completely Opaque

Windows Phone Opaque

Windows Phone behind a frosted glass

After the “NoDo” update mess, the Windows Phone engineering team took a major u-turn and did several things right. They became more transparent by having a blog and a site dedicated to providing the latest status of a certain update by carrier, by phone model, by country/geography. Secondly, they got together with the OEMs and the carriers to do a coordinated deployment of the first major update, Windows Phone 7.5 (codename Mango).

So, why do I say they have become opaque? This afternoon, over at the Windows Blog, Eric Hautala, General Manager of Customer Experience Engineering announced that going forward they are going to discontinue the constant, weekly updates they were putting out on the blog. Instead, they will provide news of updates on the main Windows Phone blog. Also, that this update (and presumably others, going forward) is going to be up to the carriers to request from Microsoft and provide to end users.

The update, available to all carriers that request it, is part of our ongoing maintenance of Windows Phone

What? The carriers have to request the update? Why would they? If they request the update, they’d have to run a long test cycle to validate the update. Then they’d have to roll it out to their users. It takes a lot of engineering effort on the part of the carriers to undertake these tests. Why would they, unless it is a huge issue like a major security vulnerability or if phones are becoming useless (“bricked”)? Absolutely no reason.

Microsoft has to push the carriers (and OEMs) to push the updates to the phones that are impacted. Sometimes not all phones on all carriers are impacted, but instead of relying on the carriers to request the update, Microsoft should be the one pushing the carriers to force the updates to the users. Unfortunately, unlike Apple, which treats you and I as their customers, Microsoft treats the carriers as their customers. That is not to say that the end customer is irrelevant to Microsoft, but clearly, the customers that pay Microsoft are the carriers and the OEMs.

I have mocked Android before, for being extremely slow in updating phones, but in that case at least, Google has admittedly washed their hands off the entire process by making Android free to use. Their argument could very well be that they have no control over the OEMs and therefore, it is futile to push the carriers who may have to do even longer testing because of the large variety of Android phones that are available. In Microsoft’s case though, all OEMs are known because it is a not a free license. The updates could be coordinated, as we saw in the case of “Mango”, among the various OEMs and carriers. That they have made a conscious decision not to mandate the carriers, shows that behind the scenes, something has changed politically which has led to this decision.

I am disappointed at these moves: first, the move to let the carriers request the update, but second and more importantly, the lack of the detailed communication regarding various updates, going forward. So, going forward, it will not only be unclear if you will receive the update, but also, you won’t know how far along your specific carrier is with the update deployment.

I can only imagine that the transparency did not go down well with Microsoft’s partners since it clearly exposed the OEMs (Samsung in particular) and carriers (Telefonica is an example) which were holding up the updates. However, the end user is the one who gets the short end of the stick here – not because they don’t receive the update, most normal customers don’t even care – mostly because their phone experience suffers. In the most recent update, there is an annoying, oft-occurring bug which has been fixed (“disappearing keyboard”). If AT&T does not pick it up and push the update out in the next few weeks, this Windows Phone user will definitely start watching the next iPhone rumors more closely.

Microsoft fixes NoDo nightmare with super-efficient Mango rollout

Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) is here

On September 27, 2011, Microsoft began its rollout of the Windows Phone 7.5 operating system update. This update, codenamed Mango, is significant for Microsoft for  a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it  brings 500-odd new and updated features to Windows Phone 7, bringing it closer to the competition like iOS and Android.  More importantly,  it is also a litmus test for Microsoft’s update process after the disastrous update experience earlier (with NoDoand SSL certificateupdates). This article focuses on the excellent job Microsoft has been able to do in the update process.


Microsoft launched Windows Phone 7 to general markets in October 2010, promising choice and variety over the monotony of iPhone, and a streamlined phone and application experience compared to the wild, wild west with Android. There were some glaring omissions in Windows Phone 7. Copy-paste and multitasking were two big items missing in the original release. Copy-paste functionality was announced as a soon-to-be-coming update at the time of the launch itself.

After a very long period of silence from Microsoft, it seemed like the NoDoupdate was finally being made available in March 2011. Even though Microsoft had not provided a date, this timeframe was thought to be a highly delayed one because it was common knowledge among Microsoft insiders that the update was ready by the end of December, and that carriers and OEMs were delaying the rollout to end users.

Besides being a highly delayed update for seemingly must-have capabilities like copy-paste, it turned out that not everyone was able to get the update at once. Compared to iOS updates, this process seemed extremely haphazard. After some very loud complaints about the lack of communication, Microsoft finally started blogging about the update process, and published a table which showed which carrier was pushing updates for the various phones. This table finally made it abundantly clear that the carriers were in fact holding up the update.


iOS updates are delivered on a specific date to every single device, regardless of carrier or country, as long as the device is eligible to get the update. This process has been in place since the very first software update they delivered. The only caveats are, over the years, certain devices have become ineligible for OS updates, and after Verizon introduced the iPhone, updates for the CDMA device are on a slightly different schedule. However, when an iOS update is made available, it is simply that available.

Android updates on the other hand are more sporadic and unpredictable. Google makes an update available for the OS, and then it is up to the OEMs and the carriers to certify that update. Google does not control the process at all, and lets the partners take care of delivering the update. Of course, Google’s Nexus devices get the updates at the time the OS is updated, but pretty much every device besides the Google Nexus devices will have their own schedule for receiving updates.

The beauty of Mango update

One huge surprise when the Mango update rollout was announced, was that almost all the phones across all the countries and all carriers were being updated. All at once! Globally, too. Granted, there are caveats like certain phones and especially phones with a certain firmware were not yet updating, and that it was a phased (throttled) rollout, but it is still incredible that in a matter of months Microsoft has been able to convince OEMs and carriers to cooperate and make this happen.

Unlike iOS where Apple is the OS maker as well as the OEM, Microsoft has to provide a build of the OS to the OEMs to test with, after which it would go to the carrier to test. Microsoft was able to get all the OEMs to synchronize their testing and then have all the carriers complete the testing by the time the update was announced as rolling out. This is incredible and it becomes immediately obvious when you compare it to Android which is much closer in its model than iOS is, to Windows Phone. The charts and table below show that as of September 2011, Android 2.3 and above are still only about 30% deployed. In about 6 months, Android has only been able to get to 30% deployment.

Android version distribution

Android version distribution

Android versions historical

Android versions – historical

In  the update announcement post, Microsoft is promising that in a few weeks, after throttling is disabled, every single existing device will have Mango available to them, across geographies, manufacturers and carriers. So in a matter of a few weeks, presumably, most Windows Phones will be on the latest version of the OS.

After its previous disasters in updates, Microsoft needed to prove that it had the muscle and the organizational setup to get an update rolled out smoothly. This announcement and subsequent reports of ease of applying the updates have proven that the ghastly memories of NoDo update can now be put away. Not only is Windows Phone the prettiest, most efficient and usable mobile operating   system with a range of carriers and OEMs to choose from, it is also an OS which updates like it should at once, uniformly, and quickly.

There’s a lot to be excited about Windows Phone coming up in the near (with Nokia) and distant future (with Windows 8 and possible merge of Windows Phone and Windows). As a Windows Phone user, I am glad that this update nightmare is over and cannot wait for what’s next!

Update: Just as I pushed “publish” on this post, I saw this update from Eric Hautala at the Windows Phone Blog, saying that the update is going so well, they are accelerating the rollout. Kudos, once again to everyone who’s behind this amazing turnaround. Remember Microsoft, this is now the new bar! :-)

Update 2: As of October 19, 2011, Microsoft has opened up the updates to generally everybody. This move is ahead of schedule and says a lot about the flawless nature of this update.