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Ubuntu smartphone to go on sale: It'll be harder to get than a new iPhone

'Flash sales' – not that kind of Flash, silly

The first Ubuntu Linux smartphones go on sale next week, after more than a year of chatter about the upcoming release.

Spanish e-reader and 'slab maker BQ’s Aquarius E4.5 Ubuntu Edition will be sold online only during a series of flash sales prior to broader availability.

Ubuntu is using flash sales, announced via Twitter, as a marketing tool to create buzz, with sales to “early adopters” that it hopes the rest of us will want to follow.

Cristian Parrino, Canonical vice president of mobile and online services, said: “We learned quite a bit from China where unknown brands have become a success in crowded markets by focusing on early adopters ... instead of shooting for volume and retail shelves from day one.”

“Clearly we are going for the mass market, and [it’s] something we will do intelligently over time. We will get there – this is very much a consumer device.”

An Ubuntu smartphone from Canonical’s other device partner, Chinese maker Meizu, will be demonstrated at MWC in Barcelona, Spain, in March. Parrino claimed Ubuntu on phones isn’t simply “another iOS or Android” with a grid layout on the screen.

That’s thanks, according to Parrino, to the way Ubuntu mobile integrates applications and services with the phone’s interface and hardware.

Ubuntu Mobile uses Canonical’s Scopes, a series of home screens customized for music, video, news and other content types. Scopes aggregate the content, the idea being, say, all your music plays through a single screen rather than streaming to or playing through separate services, apps and players.

“Users are looking for something more engaging, richer and faster they can do on a device,” Parrino said.

Scopes are built using the Ubuntu SDK C++ tools – they are Ubuntu’s version of native apps.

But if smart phones are driven by apps, and there’s no guarantee they are, it’s a big bet to make in a world of native iOS and Android or HTML5 - pushed by the FirefoxOS camp.

Ubuntu is at pains to stress the relative ease of building for scopes, playing up its low barrier to entry with devs able to reuse their existing C++ skills. Also, HTML5 apps can be ported “quickly.”

According to Parrino, modifying existing HTML5 apps will get your apps on the new Ubuntu phone quickly.

“We can give value with scopes, because they become integral to the device,” Parrino enthused. “If you have an HTML5 app that’s the fastest path to getting experience on Ubuntu." ®

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