When the Unity Desktop environment was first released in 2010, there was a lot of backlash and criticism for trying to be different. What those people didn't realize (and still might not), is that it was never about being different or trying to change the desktop; it was about getting the right 'touch' for an even bigger endeavor--convergence.
In 2011, Canonical presented us with the first look of Ubuntu on a mobile device. They called it Ubuntu Touch and it was appropriately designed for touch devices like phones and tablets. Initially, the preview ran on Galaxy Nexus devices and was a revolutionary step in free computing.
In the attempts to kick off the mobile revolution, Canonical ran the Ubuntu Edge crowdfunding campaign in 2012. While it did not reach its goal, the campaign broke records and showed us that there was a sizable interest in seeing this thing succeed. Sadly the Ubuntu Edge never came to be, and it was a disappointing end to a great Ubuntu idea. It fell over the edge, so to speak.
"Touch. I remember Touch"
But Ubuntu Touch was still alive and was being developed for standard handsets. The project was real, and the people had the opportunity to test, build, and contribute to a mobile operating system that spread the values of Ubuntu.
Ubuntu Touch wasn't just about devices. Sure, it ran a mobile OS, but the secret weapon was the Unity interface. It resembled what we had become accustomed to on the desktop, and the ultimate goal was to bring all of these devices together--to converge them.
What was once Touch or Desktop, would become simply Ubuntu (and later Ubuntu Personal), which would potentially allow people to carry a mobile device in their pocket and then plug it into a monitor for a full desktop experience. This vision held strong for the project, and as innovation continued, Canonical desired to start improving the ecosystem even further. The Snap package and the Mir display server were thrown into the mix.
Snap packages would make application development much more simple and clean, while Mir was intended to power the next iteration of the Unity environment. These two items became a bit 'touchy' for the world of Ubuntu, however, because it meant that the mobile OS would have to be re-done to work with Snaps and Mir. Sadly, it never made it that far.
"Can't Touch This"
In April of 2017, Canonical announced that it would be dropping support for mobile. That was the end of Ubuntu Touch, Ubuntu for Phones, Ubuntu Personal, as we knew it. Again, fans and contributors alike were deeply disappointed, as it was on the edge of a possible breakthrough. However, like the fading of the Ubuntu Edge idea, there was still hope.
A small team of developers running Ubports had been working on bringing Ubuntu to "unofficial" mobile devices. When the big news dropped, Ubports was swift in scooping up the entire mobile project in order to keep the dream alive.
People never stopped wanting a truly free, community-built experience on the mobile platform. Canonical's timing was just off. But, the time is now. More than ever, people are coming together in the hopes of making this dream a reality. Everyone is capable of putting their own 'touch' into the project and truly making it personal.