Complete Convergence

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I am absolutely shitting myself over the the announcement from Canonical that they will be releasing Ubuntu for phones. Ubuntu for phones is a truly revolutionary convergence of mobile, desktop, and large screen devices. Mark Shuttleworth describes it perfectly:

Today there many different devices for personal computing: laptops, tablets, smartphones—and we use completely different interfaces for them, even when they come from the same company. Now that seems a little bizarre when you consider that all of these different devices are just different faces of the same thing. You have apps, you have content, contacts, and messages, and you need to access them in a way that suits your situation. That’s why we set out to create something completely new. A family of interfaces for each of these devices. Individually great in their own right, and also coherent as a group.

One OS, multiple expressions

My assumption here is it will work just like Ubuntu for Android:

  • Your phone runs Ubuntu, so you can do all the things you would do on a desktop but with an interface that is designed specifically for small-screen devices.
  • You can plug it into your desktop computer and continue to work and play just as you would normally—with a mouse, keyboard, and monitor, but powered by your phone.

There’s a cute video about Ubuntu for Android, and there’s a real-life demo that help to explain the concept.

The difference between Ubuntu for Android and Ubuntu for Phones is that the former is just Ubuntu as we know it, but on a phone. Ubuntu for Phones, on the other hand, is still Ubuntu but with a beautiful, phone-centric interface.

Privacy and portability

My biggest issues with computing have always been privacy and portability. Unfortunately, I’ve had to compromise on privacy to achieve portability. This mostly means that I end up using a lot of web-based services for things that I would typically want to keep private, such as email and passwords.

In an ideal world, I could use a desktop app at work, on the road, and at home without ever going on the web, and without having to sync my devices. In reality that syncing process gets really fucked up. I end up emailing myself backups and importing on whatever device I’m working on, or something gets viewed on one computer but becomes unavailable on another. Ubuntu’s new take on personal computing appears to marry the best of both worlds, removing the need for syncing and allowing you to be selective about what you put in the cloud.

Commercial Viability

The downside is that there aren’t any takers yet, and Ubuntu needs full support from carriers and manufacturers to move forward. The upside is that a version of Ubuntu for Phones that runs on the Galaxy Nexus is going to be released in the next few weeks.

Let’s be honest: a commercially-available Ubuntu phone may never see the light of day, even with Ubuntu’s relationship with Dell. But I bet we’re going to see a run on Nexus’ in the next few weeks.