Major carriers may not offer Ubuntu Touch until 2015
Canonical is on a mission to manage expectations right now. We know that Ubuntu Touch phones are expected to start hitting the market in the spring, but Canonical wants to be clear that while there may be some high-powered options on the market, we shouldn't be expecting devices to be released on major carriers right away, and maybe not at all until 2015.
In a reddit ask me anything (AMA) session, Ubuntu Community Manager Jono Bacon explained it as an issue of size and risk. Major carriers and OEMs obviously need to work harder to release a device on a large scale, but smaller carriers and OEMs can afford to test out a new device. Bacon said:
Longer-term we would love to see the major OEM/Carriers shipping Ubuntu handsets. This is a long road though with many components, and I would be surprised if we see anything like this before 2015... In the shorter-term there are smaller OEMs who serve a smaller region who see great opportunity in Ubuntu, and their costs and risk are smaller for them to trial a device. This is where we will likely see the first handsets shipping. My hope is that when one of these smaller OEMs ships [an] Ubuntu handset that it sells well and it sends a strong message to other OEMs too.
So, Canonical is clearly going with a "walk before you run" approach to the Ubuntu Touch launch. Bacon also admitted that there won't be a lot of apps to start, so the target audience will be users who want "a dependable device but does not require a large catalogue of specific apps". There is a long way to go with releasing a new mobile platform into this market, and Canonical obviously understands that.