Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ubuntu Phone: Meh?...or How it Might Change the World?

Caveat emptor - I'm pretty tired so I thought I'd write this blog post. Although there will probably be some logic gaps, I'm pretty sure it will make sense. And be a little whimsical.

I know, I know...."Ubuntu Phone " is all the rage on the interwebs in some quarters. Not to be left out, I wanted to share a few thoughts. 

Oh. This will be quick and too the point without grandiose language or arguments, so feel free to ignore anything I might say and maintain a strict adherence to current positions. I'm not assailing them, just sharing my views.

'M' is for Meh

I have a rather nice Android phone, several tablets (including a fab Nexus 7), and more laptops and desktops running Ubuntu (or Xubuntu or Ubuntu Studio) at which I could shake a lemur. Additionally, Google has already integrated my digital (and non-digital) life in a more meaningful way than perhaps Apple could have possibly dreamed.

I don't want a Ubuntu phone. Please don't hate me.

It's not that I don't think it would make a smart piece of kit, it just doesn't seem like a compelling product for me. But that is just me.

However, what I do see happening is this being a life changing event for perhaps millions of people in the world.

I See Trending People

First, see as I see:

Desktop sales are dropping. Android has shown that an operating system can pretty seamlessly span multiple devices. Phone hardware is reaching an inflection point exceeding most needs. Apple starts selling uninspiring products and Microsoft slowly dies. Oh, and water and wet.

Well, the last three points don't matter for this point, but the other ones make me think that waaaaay in the future, like three years from now, people will be using their phones as their computers. Shocking, I know. But these phones will most likely be the only computers for possibly a majority of people.

There. That is my point: three years in the future, an appreciable percentage of people will only have a cell phone as a computer and...this is the tricky part, it will be all okay.


'A' is for Awesome

Forget all the blogs, forget the tech pundits, and especially forget CNN. These are first world people, thinking first world thoughts. I'm not particularly thinking about Ubuntu Phone displacing Android or Apple in the U. S. market. Stop thinking about this.

Start thinking about more powerful cell phones becoming less expensive and people in developing countries.

How transformative would a phone running a full desktop operating system be for someone who can't afford a cell phone and a desktop/laptop computer? Carry your phone around all day, come home...BAM! stick it in the dock and rock it like the desktop that it is! I would say that is pretty damn transformative.

How empowering would it be if that same person also had access to the free applications already on that operating system via their phone? I'm sorry, I can't hear you over how awesome it is that I'm running a small business as an amazingly creative entrepreneur from my phone computer! Imagine an app developer creating and compiling code on her phone. Yeah, that sounds pretty empowering.

Is the future calling? Are they wanting their ideas back?

(Those were whimsically silly, rhetorical questions.)

In Summation

I would say that this sounds capital to me. A world phone. A compelling phone. A transformative, empowering phone. Yeah.

It's not Dick Tracy's wrist tv/radio thingie, but not one single tablet manufacturer listened to me and put a phone in a tablet. And the Galaxy Note doesn't count, they put a tablet around a phone (ewww).

If you made it this far...thank you for reading my tired ramblings. You earned a gold star. See me at UDS-S and I'll give it to you.

P.S.: Moar Power

I like how the Asus Transformer has an extra battery in the keyboard/dock thing. Canonical should do this for the Ubuntu Phone, except the dock should include an additional CPU for moar p0w3r!

P.P.S.: Carly on the (Ubuntu) Phone?

Mark, if you ever think about doing a Ubuntu tablet focusing on music production, I'd love to help. Call me maybe.

Rock on.


Danilo said...

One thing you might be surprised to learn is that a majority of people today have phones as their only computer. Yes, today.

Danilo said...

Oh, and look up the Asus PadFone (and PadFone2).

Scott Lavender said...

@ Danilo

re: people using phones as computers today

can you describe these types of uses?

i am presuming that these are pedestrian tasks like checking email, updating social media, etc.

my vision of using a phone as a computer would involve intensive spreadsheets, code development, creating artwork or music, or gaming...the types of tasks that are not generally considered at phone tasks, but more desktop tasks.

dave field said...

As a sysadmin for a business i beg fir the day i can give a salesman a phone, dock and a proper LTE connection save £500 and give these guys the keys to a roadwarrior lifestyle. Only because if i hear one more person tell me the laptop is heavy..:-)

PipeManMusic said...

The phone was the first device to actually replace other devices, It took the cell phone, MP3 player, GPS and PDA and rolled it all into one package. I still use a desktop everyday, I still use a laptop everyday. I have a tablet I use everyday but it replaced books.

The compelling part of Ubuntu phone, and why it makes the most sense, is corporate environments. No phone has the IT infrastructure that Linux has, so large IT departments can manage a phone just like a desktop. That's pretty awesome.

Rusty said...

I'm of the opinion that we are already at the point from the perspective of hardware on the market, that all of this is possible already. The phone my be the local CPU, but it doesn't have to be a "phone" to do this. Essentially you need a device with 4-5x the power of a raspberry pi, and whatever level of display you want on it. Range being no display (more later) a numeric keypad and display so that it looks like a basic phone, to a tablet style interface. (Note a Raspberry Pi may be all you need, except it needs audio in, and networking.)

The phone (in phone mode) can use the keypad (if outfitted) or has a software agent doing stt & tts to take verbal commands such as 'Call Bill', confirm them 'You want me to connect you to William Wallace?'. It then uses whatever infrastructure you have available (cell subscription, wifi, something else) and looks through your contact options voip, cell, audio stream to your dtec6 wired home phone, and establishes a connection for you. (Do you really care if it's an analog phone service, cell or voip over wifi? If there are money concerns, you might provide a preference for one connection over another, but otherwise, probably not.)

When you get to work, or home, your "phone" links up to the displays via wivi (or whatever the term will be) and you use a wireless keyboard. No need for a mouse, simply set the "phone" on the table/desk/couch and use the inertial and gyro sensors to sense motion, and use rotation (left/right,up-down) for button presses. Or go back to using voice commands if you work better that way.

Link up to a 'dumb' tablet with a paper display to be used as an e-reader.

Could the platform be Ubuntu? Sure. It could be BSD, or something else entirely. Personally I'd like to see a better RT kernel than what Linux is providing at the moment, but then I don't think that 'X' would be the best option for this, and that might be enough to speed up the responsiveness.

Granted it's a pretty grand vision, but I think it's all pretty much off the shelf hardware, and mostly off the shelf software.

Unknown said...

Great write-up with strong points. I only use my computer for development purposes. I would take my nexus 7 as a phone any day of the week. The problem is its not fashionable and that's what most people care about. Until the mobile hardware markets really break into true sub categories like computers have(gaming, office, workstation, Starbucks internet device), I don't really see it happening. But I think this will all be on par with what you are predicting.

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