Last year Canonical and bq launched the first smartphone based on Ubuntu. Now they will launch the first tablet that is based on the new Ubuntu convergent platform. This device can act as a tablet, but also will act “like a full-blown PC when you connect a keyboard, mouse and display to it“.
I’ve already written about this in Xataka and Incognitosis in Spanish, so I won’t go much deeper here because mostly everyone is covering the news superficially. It doesn’t matter if the tablet maker is bq, it doesn’t matter what are the specs, and it even doesn’t matter that the device can actually offer the user a desktop experience when the tablet is connected to that display, mouse and keyboard we were talking about.
What matters is the quality of that experience. And that quality isn’t gonna be high enough to convince users to make the switch.
I’ve reviewed the bq Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition not once, but twice. I’ve followed the progress of this project since Mark Shuttleworth first mentioned it in October’2011, when no one had talked about this convergence thing before (at least, not to my knowledge), and I had great expectations even though that dream was delayed many times.
The final arrival of Ubuntu approach has been so late that Microsoft has won that race: they’ve stolen the idea and applied it to Windows 10. The execution is still far from perfect on smartphones -I reviewed the Lumia 950 XL and Continuum a few days ago, again, in Spanish- and the problems I’ve seen on that device –UX incoherences, lack of universal apps on many cases, buggy behaviour everywhere– will for sure appear to on Ubuntu.
Launching a platform that wants to change the statu quo is a big challenge, and you won’t succeed with a platform in beta or even alpha status as these two are now.
Even Remix OS is more promising than what I’ve seen on the Ubuntu front, and I suspect that the Ubuntu team will not be able to offer us that convergence dream they talked about for so long.
In fact, I suspect this will be more of a nightmare. Not only for us, the dissappointed users, but for Canonical as well.
A little company called Jide is making something extraordinary: they are showing Google how Android should look and run on the desktop.
Remix OS is based on the Android-x86 project, and from there you’ve got all the advantages on Android combined with desktop-like features like multitasking and multiwindow support, shortcuts and complete mouse support (right click included) or a start menu and a system task bar.
Canonical wants to get thing right before releasing it
Your next PC will be your smartphone.
That’s the idea Mark Shuttleworth – creator of Ubuntu and founder of Canonical- sold us on October 31st, 2011. The convergence dream was very real, but the plan failed.
Ubuntu didn’t deliver that promise on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (April’14) as expected, and we’re still waiting for them to show what’s their real proposal. There are some early demonstrations of how Ubuntu will work on your smartphone to deliver a desktop experience, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
That’s exactly what Shuttleworth explained recently on a Google Hangout in which he told us to avoid impatience:
I think that it’s important we carefully shape the emergence of Ubuntu so that it goes to people who are going to love it and contribute to it and be part of the ecosystem. I think it would be a mistake for us to try to go too fast because if we put it in the hands of people who don’t care about Ubuntu and don’t want to be part of it, right now they would be disappointed, we would be disappointed and the whole thing would be a mess. I think that the steady growth is clear.
That’s probably a wise position, but since Windows 10 is copying providing exactly that kind of dream with the exact same features Ubuntu wanted to deliver, one could think Ubuntu will arrive too late to the party. In fact, anyone who has tried Ubuntu Touch can confirm that this approach, although original -The Scopes are weirdly original and bold-, tries to distract us from the fact that the platform has almost no relevant mobile apps. And the ones they have aren’t really well done either in terms of design, usability and swiftness.
Let’s hope Ubuntu can really deliver what we all expect from them. We have to be cautious, though: Microsoft is a behemoth and even with their resources they will have a big challenge in the mobile space with this new philosophy. It’s probably their last chance to gain significance here, and Ubuntu is still far from what Windows 10 has accomplished.
The Post-PC is more of a PC-Reborn era. And it is so because the PC isn’t that big box under the table anymore. Or even that laptop, Ultrabook or convertible you’ve spent some money on lately.
No. Your PC is your smartphone. And if it’s not yet, it will be that soon enough.
That’s what Canonical envisioned almost four years ago. On October 31st, 2011 Mark Shuttleworth published this on his personal blog:
By 14.04 LTS Ubuntu will power tablets, phones, TVs and smart screens from the car to the office kitchen, and it will connect those devices cleanly and seamlessly to the desktop, the server and the cloud.
The idea was clear: your smartphone would become your PC, and the experience on that device would adapt to your needs and resources. But Canonical wasn’t able to deliver that promise. It even tried to launch Ubuntu Edge, the “convergent phone” that would provide all the necessary to get a responsive experience. That project had to be cancelled due to insufficient funding on Indiegogo, where nevertheless it was a record project.
Thankfully, Microsoft stole the idea
Microsoft took up the torch, and the company led now by Satya Nadella is finally delivering that idea. We saw the result with the new Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL, the first phones that thanks to Continuum, the Microsoft Display Dock and that ‘One Windows’ paradigm are able to transform that experience.
You can finally use those smartphones as a smartphones or as PCs. It depends on what you need, and on what your resources are. A display, a keyboard and a mouse are enough to provide that desktop experience running from a smartphone.
Convergence is here, and it seems unstoppable.
Google agrees: this is the future
Google has been pretty clear in the past about the relevance of Android and Chrome OS. Both made sense for the company, and both covered different users. That was the official message.
There was other goals inside the company, of course. As many predicted, maintaining two code bases when one of them is clearly not getting much traction seems not a good idea. Yesterday The Wall Street Journal revealed how Google would ‘fold’ Chrome OS into Android. There has been some updates on that report, and it seems Chrome OS will continue to exist after the release of that combination of both projects.
Chrome OS, tells The Verge, is not being “killed” and Re/code explains how “Starting next year, the company will work with partners to build personal computers that run on Android“. It seems the path to Google’s convergence will be a little slower, with two products coexisting -Android with Chrome OS features, and the traditional Chrome OS-, but the end seems clear: only Android (maybe with a different name) will survive.
Apple: merging iOS with OS X seems mandatory now
The discourse about convergence has also been unequivocal at Apple. Tim Cook recently explained how iOS and OS X had both sense for different scenarios:
We don’t believe in having one operating system for PC and mobile. These operating systems do different things,” said Cook. “We have no intention to blend them.
But again, this is the official discourse. There are to many hints to dismiss a possible merger between iOS and OS X:
OS X has received minimal updates on the last two years, and in most cases there has been an ‘ios-ification of OS X‘. Continuity and Handoff were nice, but not specially ambitious.
Apple’s ARM SoCs are incredibly powerful: they even beat the new MacBook, and that could led to that promising Apple laptop based on on an ARM processor (Apple A10?) and, of course, iOS.
The new iPad Pro proves that Microsoft’s idea with their Surface is the one that can really save tablets. And it’s based in iOS. Not OS X. iOS.
The Mac division is still important, but the iPhone is what makes Apple successful. Compare 63% revenue from iPhones to 13% revenue from Macs. If you add the iPads (another iOS product), you get a whopping 71% of revenue based on that products. That’s what work.
I have no doubts about this. Apple wants your smartphone to be your PC too. I’m absolutely sure they’re working on it, so stay tuned. Google’s decision won’t be the last on this front.