Chinese manufacturers Meizu and BQ will launch the first Ubuntu phones in the fall of 2014, according to Canonical Founder Mark Shuttleworth.
The company is starting with lesser-known manufacturers so it can ensure those companies dedicate enough resources to focus on "placing the right device in the right hands," Shuttleworth told CNET at MWC 2014.
He said both manufacturers "are established at getting into difficult, entrenched or congested markets" by identifying their target markets and "thinking very carefully" about branding and retail strategies.
That's key since the first Ubuntu phones "will be astonishingly great in some areas … but will come across as weak in others," Shuttleworth admitted.
Ubuntu's launch will be focused on China and Europe for 2014. The early phones will be available in the US, but China and Europe will be more important initially, Shuttleworth said.
He acknowledged that Ubuntu "won't have 650,000 apps in the app store" but said building that number up will be a focus. Part of that has been making sure app developers can use the same tools to develop on Ubuntu that they use for iOS and Android.
"We're perfectly aligned with Google and Apple so if you've got an HTML5 app that works with Android or iOS, it will work with Ubuntu, with only a tiny amount of friction that just one person can take care of," he said.
It's unclear exactly where Ubuntu will go after that, though Shuttleworth revealed that the company is "at board level with quite a few household names" in terms of manufacturers.
But one Ubuntu phone that won't hit the market in the foreseeable future is the ambitious Ubuntu Edge. Despite raising huge amounts of cash, the Edge fell short of its massive $32 million (AU$35.7m) goal "by a record," Shuttleworth admitted. And he doesn't consider that a success.