With Apple and Google dominating the smartphone market over companies like Microsoft and BlackBerry, it's a little hard to imagine another player in the smartphone industry.

Canonical has finally launched its alternative to iOS and Android with Ubuntu for phone, which is formally known as Ubuntu Mobile. But could Ubuntu really make waves in the smartphone market?

Ubuntu for phone is a little different than other smartphone operating systems. While Android and iOS are largely about apps, with a massive app ecosystem supporting them, the Linux-based Ubuntu isn't about the apps. Instead, it's about "Scopes." These Scopes essentially replace the standard home screen layout, with each Scope being customized to offer a certain set of information. For example, the Today scope offers users a summary of what they need to know on a daily basis, including messages, calls and social media notifications.

Because of the lack of apps on the platform, however, it's difficult to imagine that Ubuntu for phone will ever take off. That's not to say that apps cannot be created for Ubuntu for phone, but Canonical, the company behind the new operating system, certainly isn't going to pour money into the pockets of developers to create apps in the way that Google has done in the past.

This could potentially be the downfall of the operating system. While users can customize their smartphone experience through tweaking their Scopes, the real user customization comes with apps. Without incentives, developers aren't likely to create apps for a platform so small. Users are unlikely to purchase a phone with an operating system that doesn't have any apps. It's somewhat of a vicious cycle.

Instead, Canonical is relying on its rather large and widespread community to spread word of the new operating system. Ubuntu has built a community through computer operating systems, and its likely that many of the people in this community will want to start using their beloved operating system on their smartphone.

The phone is now on sale in Europe through a Spanish smartphone company, BQ. Its Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition launched in February on what was formerly an Android handset. It is selling for about 170 euros, or a bit more than $190.

Widespread adoption of the operating system will take a long time, but it is possible. The community could make enough noise to cause others to want to try out Ubuntu for phone, which could eventually cause developers to take notice.

Partnering with smartphone makers will also be extremely important for Canonical as it attempts to build its fan base. The company is unlikely to topple the likes of Google from its throne, but as it starts to chip away at smaller players like BlackBerry, we could see a much larger app ecosystem for the fledgling smartphone system.

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