I have mixed emotions about this, and it's certainly not the first mobile one-stop shop I have seen advertised. Could this finally be the ultimate intermarriage of phone and desktop that everyone seems to crave? Will Apple address this need with the iPad 3 or the next iPhone? Will we finally have world peace? Will the Redskins ever win another Super Bowl? We can't be sure of any of the above, but with mobile advances squeezing processor, memory and graphics firepower into smaller form factors, it was only a matter of time. The question is, do we really want or need a single device for everything? I say we don't... Canonical evidently has other ideas, at least for corporate users.
Last week at MWC, Canonical, the developers behind Linux Ubuntu unveiled Ubuntu for Android, which when installed on an Android phone, can be docked to a traditional screen, keyboard and mouse, thereby running a highly capable desktop experience (Android handles the phone function part). The demo is pretty cool, no doubt. I have used Ubuntu for several years now, and I have been amazed at the evolution of the desktop and application experience, though I haven't seen that always extend to stability or support (though the forum community is strong). I usually end up re-installing about once every year because of a kernel or patch update that trashes my machine or causes problems too aggravating to research and fix. The Unity desktop experience is a good example, which seemed to be aimed at netbooks. I hated it not only because it slowed my netbook to a crawl and caused kernel panics, but also because many of the problems that go along with Ubuntu (Unity's problems included) go unresolved in that major release, or for that particular hardware type.
While I like the notion that open source operating environments like Ubuntu exist--and they are fun to play with--I simply can't take them seriously enough to use them exclusively for desktop or mobile tasks involving my permanent data; meaning, the data that I think is important enough to keep stored in a safe place. It is not and will not likely ever be stored on an computer with Ubuntu as the sole boot option (though I have been trying out the Ubuntu One cloud service for some time). So, you could say I have some doubts about a universal Ubuntu-based mobile device that rules all. On the server side, however, it is somewhat interesting to note that iPhoneLife's service provider has recently migrated to Ubuntu, which I wholeheartedly support.
On the notion of gadget unification, I don't like it at all. The first reason I can give to discourage the idea lies in the fact that we love our various gadgets. If we had a thing-a-ma-bob, flat-jigger, portable HiFi, WiFi, uber-control launchpad of a gadget that unified every other gadget into one single device (which iPhone already sort of does), what in the world would we do when we had to finally recharge it or put it away (or perish the thought , it breaks)? Seriously, half the coolness behind having an awesome thing like an iPad, is having an awesome other thing to hook it up to, right? A desktop computer, a laptop computer, an Apple TV, an iPhone all have a firm niche that make each a compelling thing to want to own and enjoy (and then accessorize). What am I going to ask for for Christmas if you take all that away, huh? Socks?
I think Ubuntu has unveiled something compelling for business users, but it's not really for the masses. This goes for iOS too. We need variety, and so does the tech economy for that matter. We need vendors making all sorts of products and add-on products. I for one, don't want iPad 3 (or 4, or 5) to replace my computer, because frankly sometimes I get annoyed at my iPad and just want to put it away, sit down at a real keyboard and play solitaire for an hour. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'd like to know what you think... Read on for the full release from Canonical for more info (source TalkAndroid.com and APPY Geek)...
Ubuntu for Android at MWC – world’s first full-featured desktop on a docked smartphone... Carry less, do a lot more. All the productivity and apps of the full Ubuntu desktop, built into your Android phone.
"London, 22nd February, 2012: Canonical today unveiled Ubuntu for Android, bringing the world’s favourite free desktop experience to multi-core Android smartphones docked with a keyboard and monitor. Use Android on the phone and Ubuntu as your desktop, both running simultaneously on the same device, with seamless sharing of contacts, messages and other common services.
The phone experience is pure Android – it’s a normal Android phone. When the device is connected to a computer screen, however, it launches a full Ubuntu desktop on the computer display. It’s exactly the same desktop used by millions of enterprise and home users on their Ubuntu PCs, and includes hundreds of certified applications, from office productivity to photography, video and music.
All data and services are shared between the Ubuntu and Android environments, which run simultaneously on the device. So Android applications such as contacts, telephony and SMS/MMS messaging are accessible from the Ubuntu interface. Indeed, all data on the smartphone can be accessed at any time, docked or not.
Ubuntu for Android gives mobile workers a company phone that is also their enterprise desktop. Government and private institutions have embraced Ubuntu on the desktop because of its ease of use, security, manageability, superb range of native applications and excellent support for web browsers like Chrome and Firefox. The desktop can also include Windows applications, using thin client and desktop virtualisation tools. Today’s IT departments commonly support a PC and at least one desktop phone for every employee. Many also provide and manage mobile phones. Ubuntu for Android presents a compelling solution to IT complexity by reducing that burden to a single device.
The first PC for the next billion knowledge workers could be a phone – but they won’t just want to use it as a handset. They will want all the flexibility and productivity of a full desktop, as well as the convenience of a smartphone on the move. Ubuntu for Android represents the first opportunity for handset makers and network operators to address this growth opportunity in emerging markets.
“The desktop is the killer-app for quad-core phones in 2012” says Mark Shuttleworth. “Ubuntu for Android transforms your high-end phone into your productive desktop, whenever you need it”
Manufacturers targeting the corporate phone, as well as the next-generation enterprise desktop and thin clients can easily add Ubuntu for Android to their smartphones. The customized version of Ubuntu drops in cleanly alongside the rest of Android, and the necessary Android modifications are designed for easy integration. Hardware requirements include support for HDMI and USB, standard features in high-end handsets planned for late 2012.
Ubuntu for Android justifies the cost to enterprise customers of upgrading to higher bandwidth 4G connections and contracts. Cloud apps like Google Docs work best with a full desktop, and shine with the lower latency of LTE. Network operators can deliver their own branded applications and services as part of the Ubuntu desktop, in partnership with Canonical.
Canonical leads the traditional Linux ecosystem in support for the ARM architecture, having co-founded Linaro (linaro.org), the consortium dedicated to the unification of Linux on ARM and the simplification of Android integration and delivery. That industrial experience, combined with Canonical’s long-standing leadership in desktop Linux and deep relationships with global PC brands enables Canonical to deliver an ARM-optimised desktop tightly integrated with Android, on silicon from a range of ARM vendors.
Canonical engineering and open community governance drive Ubuntu’s success in client, server and cloud computing – including personal cloud services for consumers. Canonical’s vision of a unified free platform in Ubuntu, from phone to cloud, with a family of coherent interfaces for the phone, tablet, TV and desktop, makes Ubuntu the first choice for diverse institutions from public cloud providers to the makers of consumer electronics, and a favourite among individual technologists.
With developers and engineering centres around the world, Canonical is uniquely positioned to partner with hardware makers, content providers and software developers to bring Ubuntu solutions to market – from PCs to servers and handheld devices.