It's taken me a long time to get on board the Ubuntu convergence train. I've been very pessimistic about the whole platform, based on the terrible state of Ubuntu Phone (as run on the Bq Aquaris handset).
But then, I happened to watch a video, by the wonderful people of XDADEVELOPERS, from Mobile World Congress (Video A), in which John Lee (of Canonical) demonstrates convergence with Ubuntu Phone running on an older Nexus 4 handset.
This video came just a week or so after Canonical made the first official announcement of a Ubuntu tablet to be released. This table will be manufactured by Bq and will be a part of the same Aquaris line as is their Ubuntu phone. The specs for the tablet aren't too shabby:
- Display: 10.1-inch IPS touch display (1920×1200 pixel resolution at 240 ppi)
- CPU: 64-bit MediaTek MT8163A 1.5GHz quad-core processor
- RAM: 2GB of RAM
- STORAGE: 16GB (micro SD memory card is included, adding storage expansion of up to 64GB)
All of this is fine and good...but up until now everything I have seen from Bq has been less than impressiveHowever, after digging around a bit (and watching the above video from WMC), I realize that all the criticism tossed at Ubuntu Phone has been premature.
Let me explain.
First and foremost, we get what convergence is. You use a single device for all your needs:
- You carry your phone with you all day
- You work on your phone
- You plug your phone into a monitor and switch it to desktop mode
- You work at your desk with your phone
- You unplug your phone, switch it to phone mode
- You go home
- You plug your phone into your monitor at home and switch it to desktop mode
- You play on your phone at home
- Wash, rinse, repeat
For some of us, this doesn't make sense. Why? Because we're of an older mindset that precludes us from making a smartphone or tablet our only device. I do things that require some serious power (rendering videos and audio). But the truth of the matter is, a large percentage of people (especially of the millennial generation) have forsaken the tried and true form factor for their mobile devices. So when you consider this, convergence makes perfect sense. And, after watching the Canonical demo, the light goes off over my head and I can finally shout, "Ah ha!"
But what about...
The first question that comes to mind, when you consider this relative newcomer to the mobile space, is that of apps. As it stands, there are very few apps available for the Ubuntu Phone platform. To settle that issue, there is one thing you must consider:
Ubuntu Phone is still very much in development.
In fact, I would go so far as to say Canonical was quite premature in the releasing of devices. You see, this whole schmear isn't going to spread properly until Unity 8/Mir is released. At that point, everything changes. Once the Ubuntu desktop is in conjunction with the phone/tablet space, everything will be running the same platform, the same code. That is when things get interesting. When we finally see phone/tablet/desktop running the same release of Ubuntu, we'll see convergence finally work as it should. Why? Because all those apps we depend upon (LibreOffice, Audacity, Gimp, etc) will run on the convergent platform.
It should be noted, however, that the Bq Aquaris M10 will ship with LibreOffice, Mozilla Firefox, The GIMP and Gedit pre-installed. That's right, full-blown legacy apps running on the mobile platform. The current release date of the M10 is set for March, 2016.
Premature release of the platform
Lots of work still must be undertaken before this will come to fruition. That is why I believe Canonical was premature in releasing any devices. So far everyone has been less than kind to the Ubuntu Phone platform. What we really didn't understand (even though it was staring us in the eyes) was that we were seeing software very much in beta...maybe even alpha. It's a very rare occasion that a piece of beta software is ready for release. That was the disconnect. Ubuntu Phone has not (and is still not) ready for release.
The good news is that Unity 8/Mir are just around the corner. Canonical has given us every indication that Ubuntu 16.10 will ship with the new platform. I will, however, offer up this piece of advice. When Ubuntu 16.10 does ship (October, 2016), make sure Ubuntu Phone is ready to deliver on the promise of convergence...completely. If Canonical can pull off the full blown convergent experience (as in all legacy apps run on the platform), then they will have a major victory on their hands (as well as a platform ready for public consumption).
I hope this happens. Canonical and the Ubuntu Phone developers have been working tirelessly on this project and it needs (nay, deserves) a win of this magnitude.
Do you think Canonical's take on convergence will succeed? If not, why?
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.