This week, developers for the Ubuntu operating system are meeting in Seville, Spain to begin work on a new version of the distribution, Mobile Ubuntu. Designed to work with Intel's recently-announced low-power processor and chipset architecture, Ubuntu plans to allow developers creating mobile software the ability to create software utilizing the Gnome Mobile and Embedded Initiative. This software will help extend Linux's reach into a relatively underdeveloped area of computing, but this fact does not necessarily mean that Canonical, Ubuntu's corporate sponsor, should be pursuing Mobile Ubuntu.
As Dell prepares to release models of its desktops and laptops pre-installed with the Ubuntu operating system, Ubuntu's most important test of its viability as a replacement to Windows is afoot. Even though Dell plans to offer full support for the operating system through a contract with Canonical, many users will certainly be skeptical as to Ubuntu's ability to replace Windows for their needs. If a user purchases a Windows machine, has problems, and is forced to call technical support, their feeling will probably resemble resignation—what else could be done? However, if the same user runs Ubuntu and has problems, he has alternatives—he could go back to Windows and never touch Linux again.
Ubuntu's major objective, at this point, should be to continue to ensure that users won't have any such problems. The operating system has always been targeted towards desktop users, and has reaped great popularity as a result. Now, as steps are being taken to introduce Linux to a more widespread audience, and especially with its great promise of success, Ubuntu should not be concerning itself too much with alternative platforms.
An open-source mobile platform is a great boon to developers trying to develop applications for mobile users, but can it really contribute much to public knowledge of Linux? Only a small percentage of computer users use mobile devices such as smartphones, and they don't care much how it runs—just that it does. The same could be said for a desktop, too, but there's a fundamental difference: the initial choice of operating system. Users have a decision as to whether their desktop runs Windows or Linux or OS X, embedded devices provide little such choice.
Canonical's goal with Mobile Ubuntu is probably financial, at least in part, following Red Hat's example for providing companies which embed Mobile Ubuntu in their products with support and services. However, it seems that even with this financial incentive, getting Ubuntu and Linux out into the mainstream desktop market is much more likely to produce a financial return in the long run. If Ubuntu can make its way into other manufacturer's machines, more contracts for support like that with Dell are certain to follow.
Granted, Ubuntu has many developers, and a new project such as Mobile Ubuntu won't necessarily take away from the development of Ubuntu desktop. However, Canonical needs to remain focused on its desktop releases to ensure that users (especially those new to Linux) have a hassle-free experience. There is far more at stake for Ubuntu's desktop operating system at this juncture.