On one hand Canonical created Ubuntu, the most popular Linux distribution on desktops, but isn’t getting a significant share in the growing mobile market. Nokia on the other hand, once mobile king, is struggling to hold its place in the new world of smatrphones and tablets. Nokia’s traditional friendly approach to phones now seemed quaint and uninspired on a touch-screen smartphone and Canonical is all but invisible in that market.
Both companies has more in common. Nokia’s experience with open source software hasn’t been completely successful. In the past Nokia purchased and open sourced the Symbian mobile OS, but failed to create community traction. Nokia’s other major open source move, the purchase of the popular Qt framework, has been fruitful , but Nokia isn’t capitalizing on it yet.
Nokia’s latest adventure is a strategic effort to enter the Linux world with Meego, a Linux distribution for the mobile market (actually a joint venture with Intel, AMD, and other non-leaders in the mobile world).
From Canonical’s side things are similar. During the netbook-smartphone-tablet turmoil of the past couple of years, Canonical remained oddly quiet, releasing only the Ubuntu netbook edition. Only recently Canonical started investigating the whole mobile interface with Unity. That marked another step closer to Nokia by choosing Qt as the framework for Unity 2D (which turned to a hit even before official release with upcoming Ubuntu 11.4).
On the practical end of things, Nokia had very little to show in the last CES, especially when it comes to Meego. This may mean Nokia is taking it slow with Linux. Canonical had some mixed experience cooperating with hardware vendors in the past, but it is obvious that both firms has lots to gain from this move. Nokia can become a major player in the Linux world, and Ubuntu can be a valid Apple competitor with the powerful combination of OS and an experienced hardware house.