Friday, 11 November 2011

Opinion: Ubuntu on phones tablets TV’s and smart screens everywhere

Immediately preceding the Ubuntu Developer Summit last month, Mark Spaceshuttle set forth Canonical's stall on the software platforms of the future.

"By 14.04 LTS Ubuntu will power tablets, phones, TVs and smart screens from the car to the office (to the) kitchen, and it will connect those devices cleanly and seamlessly to the desktop, the server and the cloud."


It's Ubuntu on everything, then. He goes on:

"Unity, the desktop interface in today’s Ubuntu 11.10, was designed with this specific vision in mind. While the interface for each form factor is shaped appropriately, Unity’s core elements are arranged in exactly the way we need to create coherence across all of those devices. This was the origin of the name Unity – a single core interface framework, that scales across all screens, and supports all toolkits."
Oh dear. I hope Mark doesn't mean the Unity Dash on every form factor. The interface of Ubuntu Netbook Remix was heading in the right direction, attractive and simple, until Unity somehow got *too clever by half.*

"Canonical and the Ubuntu community have established Ubuntu’s place in desktop, server and cloud deployments. We have also invested in the design and engineering of Unity, motivated by the belief that desktop interfaces would merge with mobile, touch interfaces into a seamless personal computing platform in the future."
Those words merge and seamless always worry me. Merge always means compromised and I've yet to see anything even remotely approaching seamless.

"A constantly changing world: The way we access the Internet, connect to our friends, listen to music, watch films and go about our daily lives is rapidly evolving. We now use a diverse set of devices with an array of operating systems, which have a range of connectivity. Few people are exclusively loyal to a single technology provider."
'So come and buy something from us, please'

Shuttleworth quotes supporting stats from Paul Maritz at 2011 VM World Keynote:
“Three years ago over 95 percent of the devices connected to the Internet were personal computers. Three years from now that number will probably be less than 20 percent. More than 80 percent of the devices connected to the Internet will not be Windows-based personal computers.”




'The personal computer is dead.'

"Make no mistake – just as the world is changing for manufacturers so is it changing for Linux distributions. Today, 70% of people in Egypt access the Internet solely via the phone. Even in the US that figure is a startling 25%."

'The personal computer is really dead. Really. It's all over. Start the car. Michael Dell is outside on the street selling shoelaces from a tray.'

"Ubuntu will thrive in this new reality... We are determined to bring more free software to more people around the world, and building that future hand in hand with device manufacturers is the best way to do it. There is no winner in place yet. This opportunity remains wide open, but only to products that deliver excellent experiences for users, across a full range of device categories."
'Canonical will do you a better deal on software for your i-Smug clone than Redmond. Really, Mr Factory-man, we love you long time.'

And before we leave, here comes the sales message:

"Ubuntu One and the software centre... Ubuntu’s personal cloud and *app centre* services are appropriate for all these environments."
It's a bold piece of corporate marketing and despite my snarky comments and cynicism, I wish Mark and Canonical all the best in the attempt to penetrate these emerging markets. Any entity that isn't Microsoft or Apple is welcome competition to keep the rest honest.

I await with interest what version of Unity I'm invited to run on my phone, my fridge and my TV, although thinking about it, I'll be astonished if Canonical gets anything onto those platforms without an awful lot of lawsuits and/or licensing agreements. RC