I've been a huge advocate of Ubuntu for as long as I can remember. As I watched Canonical grow the distribution into something that could easily become a household name, I felt they could do no wrong. Canonical even shifted their focus to convergence in order to include the largest growing market in technology — mobile. Their plan has been (for some time now) to merge the desktop, the tablet, and the phone into one cohesive whole. They had all the infrastructure there, including Ubuntu One, which was one of the more seamless cloud storage services available.
I have used Ubuntu One since its inception. I purchased extra storage early on and never stopped using it. I tried other cloud storage services and always came back to Ubuntu One. Why? It was easily configured to work how I wanted, it was fast, and it was seamlessly integrated into my favorite operating system. Yes, it had its share of hiccups, but what service doesn't? And the Ubuntu One Music Store made purchasing and syncing music as simple as it gets.
But as of June 1st, 2014, syncing will stop. On July 31st, 2014, all data will be wiped. Ubuntu One will be no more.
The reason for this shutdown is quite clear — Canonical simply can't afford it. With Google offering 100 GB for $1.99/month, no one can compete. But there's a hole in the fiscal logic that Canonical will have to very quickly patch. That hole is the shape of a smartphone. With Canonical set to release their first ever smartphone, they'll have to come up with (or partner with) a cloud service well before its release. That means a possible change in codebase or design. If the Ubuntu Phone is released without the ability to connect to a cloud service, the device will fail. Why? Have we become that reliant on the cloud already? In a word, yes.
Imagine a smartphone trapped within itself, unable to easily sync data between devices. Your only recourse for sharing is to email, SMS, or (shudder) FTP documents. How would a smartphone of that nature succeed? It won't.
Of course, this could be as simple as Canonical partnering with, say, Google Drive, Dropbox, or SpiderOak to get an instant, well-supported cloud service for the Ubuntu Phone. But it has to be considered a must-have feature for the Ubuntu Phone.
Here's an interesting bit of information: Without the aid of a cloud computing service, average mobile users would lose 240 productive hours per year.
That doesn't necessarily pertain specifically to a cloud storage service, but storage plays a huge role in the world of the smartphone (and tablet). Those devices have very limited storage, and most users use said devices on the road to keep them connected to family and work. Without a cloud storage service, the ability to share and work with saved documents becomes a logistical nightmare.
This is something Canonical must resolve immediately.
I'm sure Canonical is catching a ton of flak for this decision. In fact, I've already read confessions from a large number of Ubuntu users who are now planning to jump ship to another distribution. I'm even entertaining that idea. One of the reasons I've remained with Ubuntu is Ubuntu One. Without a cloud offering, Ubuntu offers little more than any other Linux distribution outside of a desktop interface and package management system.
Fortunately, with Linux, I can find solid package management systems and quality interfaces anywhere! This could be the straw that tipped that camel over and had me crawling to Ubuntu Studio, Linux Mint, or maybe it's time to give Fedora another go.
In the meantime, I've installed Insync for Linux and found it to be an amazing product. Sure, it has a price attached to it (chump change at $15.00 for a single license), but it's worth it. I use Google Drive extensively now, and the migration from Ubuntu One to Google Drive has been seamless with Insync. The big reality with using Google Drive is that you know it's not going anywhere, so your data will be safe from the big call for shutdown.
I do hope this move by Canonical is not a death knell. I want to continue my relationship with that distribution — it's served me so well over the years. But with their continued focus on things other than the desktop, they're making decisions that seem to be counter-intuitive to what Linux is all about. I understand "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose," but Ubuntu is, at its heart, a desktop operating system. Stray too far from that and Ubuntu will be battling juggernauts that they may not be able to slay.
What do you think? Was the shutting down of Ubuntu One short-sighted on Canonical's part? Or is this a non-issue (considering the amount of cloud services available that work well with Linux)? Tell us your opinion in the discussion thread below.
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.