Mobility

10 criteria Ubuntu Edge must meet if it's going to succeed

Recently announced Ubuntu Edge -- a high-powered Android phone that will offer a full desktop experience -- could have a profound impact on the mobile world. If it succeeds.

Canonical has been promising the delivery of a mobile device for a while now. The Ubuntu phone has lived in a sort of nebulous zone -- awaiting the full realization of the user interface as well as carriers to pick up the device. Before that could even happen, Canonical dropped a major announcement for Ubuntu Edge that could easily turn the mobile world upside down.

What is Ubuntu Edge? It's very much in line with a bit of vaporware Canonical tried to deliver: Ubuntu on Android. This system would have taken your Android phone and, when attached to a special dock, magically transformed it into a full-blown Ubuntu desktop machine. That never really happened, but it was the precursor to Ubuntu Edge. With some of the most impressive specs for a smart, nay super, phone ever put to paper, Canonical now has the hardware to back up its endgame. But for Ubuntu Edge to compete with the already entrenched Android and IOS platforms, it must meet (or exceed) the following criteria.

1: It must deliver

This might seem like a no-brainer – but Canonical has to deliver what it has  promised... in full. There will be no room for failing on any of these promises. Why? The mobile competition is tight and for the public to take this seriously, Canonical has to ensure that Ubuntu Edge delivers. But this actually goes beyond the mobile device. Canonical has invested a lot of time and resources into building this new mobile device -- enough to detract from its bread and butter, the desktop. If Ubuntu Edge fails, it will have been nothing more than wasted time at a crucial point in the life of the Linux desktop. A failure on the part of Ubuntu Edge could have a far-reaching impact on everything Canonical does.

2: It must deliver something spectacular

As I mentioned, the competition in the mobile space is huge -- even more so than on the desktop space. For Ubuntu Edge to have even the slightest chance of success, it has to deliver something no one has ever brought to life. Canonical has placed itself in a perilous position and if it delivers anything shy of spectacular, Ubuntu Edge will fail. This places quite a bit of pressure on Canonical, but that's the nature of the mobile world. It's well beyond dog eat dog. If Ubuntu Edge doesn't blow away the current offerings, it'll drown in a sea of already tough competition.

3: It must give back to certain donors

At the moment, Canonical is trying for a record-breaking 32 million dollars in donations for a kickstarter -- just to get this project off the ground. If this succeeds, and Ubuntu Edge does make it, Canonical will need to give back, at least to a certain level of donors. This could be in the form of "If you donate X number of dollars, you will receive a free handset (carrier fees, of course, would apply). I would hope that Canonical wouldn't turn its back on those who help make this happen, once it happens.

4: It must contribute to open source

In a similar vein, Canonical needs to contribute to open source with this project. Many of the recent decisions Canonical has made have caused rifts and cracks to form in the foundation it laid long ago with the open source community. Giving back with this project could go a long way toward appeasing that community and mending those cracks. I'm not saying it has to open source the entire project. But it does need to extend an olive branch -- in the form of code, resources, devices... whatever. If Ubuntu Edge succeeds, Canonical shouldn't leave the open source community in the dark or in the dust.

5: It must be global

If Ubuntu Edge is delivered only to, say, European countries, it will fail. If it's delivered only to the United States, it will fail. Ubuntu Edge needs to find its way into every market that Android and IOS are in. In other words, it must be global. Because the mobile market is intensely competitive, Ubuntu Edge won't stand a chance if it's relegated to niche markets. Also, when Ubuntu Edge is released, it must be released simultaneously across multiple markets. If Canonical finalizes its product and then does a test release on a small scale, the public will see this as timid business -- which could lead them to think Canonical doesn't believe in its product. Canonical needs to hit the ground running with this.

6: It must perform well as a phone

With everything Canonical is promising Edge will deliver, it must also work well as a phone. So many companies deliver outstanding devices that are rock solid on the "smart" but less than acceptable on the "phone." It'll be all fine and good that users can carry around enough power to run a fully loaded desktop. But if they can't make reliable calls, what's the point?

7: It must not take away from the Ubuntu desktop

One of the war cries, heard 'round the open source community, is that the whole Ubuntu Phone project is taking away from what should be the focus of Canonical -- the Linux operating system. The fear is that, should Ubuntu Edge succeed, the Ubuntu Linux platform will be left behind to suffer a lack of resources and commitment. Canonical has to prove the naysayers wrong and do so quickly. Should Ubuntu Edge mean the failure of Ubuntu Linux, the mobile platform will lose a large cross-section of possible adopters. Beyond that, Ubuntu Linux has been on the cusp of making serious leaps and gains on the desktop. Losing ground there would be a shame.

8: It must deliver both desktop and mobile apps

If Ubuntu Edge is released without a large selection of apps, it will struggle. And if the desktop flavor of Ubuntu Edge doesn't offer everything the standard Ubuntu Linux platform brings, it will struggle. Applications will play a major role in the success of Ubuntu Edge. The app selection must also offer a wide variety. If we're looking at a large selection of pointless games and very little in the way productivity or business-class applications, Ubuntu Edge will not be taken seriously.

9: It must not suffer serious delay

Canonical needs to post a release date (once it has raised the funds) and needs to stick with that date. This is especially true if it raises the 32 million in funds in the 30 days it has, only to let the release date continuously slide. Obviously, the designs are complete and the Ubuntu Phone platform is nearly polished. With everything in place, a delay in release will only cause Canonical to continue losing ground to the competition.

10: It must have support

Ubuntu Edge will be completely different from anything the mobile community has ever seen or used. Because of this, Canonical will need to be prepared to offer official support. Having forums and mailing lists won't work in this case. Without official support (a phone number or email address people can use), a large portion of the end-user community will find difficulty in using the system. Canonical can't assume that every adopter will be a hard-core Linux user who can solve nearly any problem the device throws at them. Upon release... Ubuntu Edge must have real, official, and efficient support.

Expectations...

I'm a big fan of Ubuntu. I like a lot of the decisions Canonical has made and support its efforts. But Ubuntu Edge is a special case – one that must succeed on every level if it is to succeed at all. I look forward to the day when I can kick the tires of Ubuntu Edge. I hope that comes soon and I hope it exceeds every expectation Canonical is laying down.

About

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.

24 comments
EnergyBlazar
EnergyBlazar

There is one conceptual idea of a phone which is phonebloks and if this is combined with ubuntu team i bet it will be one of the brilliant phones that many of us would be dying to get our hands to, atleast me and many of my friends would be in queue to purchase a gadget something like that, which can just be upgraded or repaired using simple blocks !! NOW HOWS THAT !?!?

For those who dont know about phonebloks here is the link http://youtu.be/oDAw7vW7H0c

M Wagner
M Wagner

You forgot the most important competitor ...  Microsoft. 

While Microsoft is WAY BEHIND in the smartphone sector, Windows phone 8 is a serious competitor.  Nokia literally "bet the farm" on Windows phone 8 and attracted the attention of the two biggest carriers in the USA.  Nokia Lumia sales continue to grew.  HTC jumped in, and then Samsung.  With three handset vendors with a good track record, Microsoft is well-placed to succeed this time around. 

In order to pick up these to top carriers in the USA, Ubuntu has to attract someone to make the device for them but they also have to attract AT&T or VZW (if not both). 

Not to disparage Ubuntu (or desktop Linux in general) but Linux could not gain enough traction to keep Microsoft from taking over the netbook business - why will this be any different - especially with Apple and Google (Android) already firmly entrenched?

Craig.Humphrey@ChapmanTri
Craig.Humphrey@ChapmanTri

If the stories about Windows Phone 9 being rebuilt from scratch (again) and possibly being built on the same base as Windows 8/RT, then what's to stop a Windows Phone on Intel (super low power i3 or Atom?) being a phone while on the move and plugging in a full size screen/keyboard/mouse/LAN when you sit at a desk?

No switching modes/OS, it's all just Windows 9... It just scales.  Same apps (please base it on x86/x64 not RT!), same UI, same desktop, same everything, just think of it as a desktop OS that's met responsive UI...

Microsoft would be mad not to have considered this approach...

LifeNoBorders
LifeNoBorders

Articles like this kind of bug me, to be honest I'm not entirlely sure why I read it, the headline was interesting, but while I was reading, I kept thinking that it looked like the kind of bullet list you take into your very first product development meeting. 

The difference is that everyone else going into that meeting already has a solid understanding of the history behind the project, some have spent time analysing market research data, some with business and revenue models, others with technical feasibility, others still with legal. All of them will have strong opinions, and many will disagree on major points or have valid ideas that are way outside the current groupthink that need to be discussed.

After that first meeting you realise that


1. Your "Must have" list, is nothing of the sort

2. There are things that are actually more critical to the success of the project that you'd never considered

3. That in the future you're going to come into those meetings with some humility and a desire to learn and contribute and not pontificate about your world view.


As a piece of journalism I suppose its ok, it incites response and debate, gets page views, but it doesnt have a dissenting view, it didnt appear to be well researched (trust me making unfounded  and inaccurate statements  in a product development meeting would be embarrasing and may prevent future invitations to those meetings). I would have been more interested if you'd included maybe one other persons opinion, or a statemet from someone involved with the project, or indeed almost anything else to lend weight to the athoratative style of the subject heading.


I suppose my lesson from this is that in the future I'll be more careful about spending my time on soapbox rants (including my own)


Regards

John


Lightning Joe
Lightning Joe

I don't know it anyone has confronted this, but there is one critical hurdle the Edge must surmount.


Because it is ONE device, replacing TWO devices, it must fulfill the roles of BOTH seamlessly.


What this means is that -- if indeed the Edge is to be a phone -- the user must have the ability to make and take calls WHILE using the dock to produce a true desktop experience. The phone must multitask SEAMLESSLY; computing and calling at one and the same time.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Item 10 is going to be the most critical. Linux in general is notorious for its lack of support to the 'uneducated'. Even now, Android tends to suffer when an uneducated user has issues, usually resulting in having the customer's phone re-activated at a minimum and replaced more often than not. This kind of shortfall will do more damage than good to the Ubuntu name and perhaps to Linux in general as far as the ordinary consumer is concerned.

Embedded66
Embedded66

Battery life doesn't crack the top 10? With a device built for power and speed, you'd think that would be quite a challenge for them. (I'm picturing Gary Sinise in Apollo 13 trying to find those extra drops of juice!)

ramraosaheb
ramraosaheb

Point #4? --why must it contribute to open source?
Apps developed by the open-source community will be open-source, but why should the phone OS be open-source? So, someone can fork off a competing phone?

sire_tim
sire_tim

I think it's stupid.  We have two entrenched smartphones: Apple and Android.  Why do we need another?

PSUdain
PSUdain

There are several "points" raised in this article that are at best absolutely uninformed.


3: It must give back to certain donors

They already are giving back to donors. It's listed right on the page at Indiegogo (not Kickstarter, as you state) which levels will get a handset as part of the campaign.


4: It must contribute to open source

 The entirety of the code for Ubuntu is already open source. Ubuntu's entire phablet project is part of that Ubuntu codebase, and is already free and open source software. In fact there is not actually an "Ubuntu Desktop OS" and a separte "Ubuntu Touch OS". Just Ubuntu. Even the desktop and touch interfaces are part of the same project, Unity, even though they have separate form factors and interface elements.

They're never going to please the RMS-style fanatics, but Canonical has been and continues to be a contributing member of the free and open source software community.


5: It must be global
It says right at the Indiegogo page that they will be shipping internationally ($30 shipping outside of the US and Europe). It also addresses global operability:

What countries and mobile networks will support the Edge?

The Ubuntu Edge is an open device, not locked to any particular network. It works in all countries that provide GSM/3G/LTE-based network services. It will also support the two LTE standards to provide 4G mobile broadband connectivity around the world (subject to network availability and data fees). Before launch we will conduct interoperability testing with networks in Europe, the US, South America, China, India, the Middle East and Africa. This is a normal step in the process of developing a mobile device.


Besides that, your post seems to suffer a confusion about the different between the specific hardware that is the Ubuntu Edge and the larger foray of Ubuntu into the touch space. The Edge will not carry Ubuntu into developing countries en masse.  It's just too expensive.

That goal will be carried out by lower cost, non-luxury handsets which Ubuntu will still be capable of running on (it is being designed to run well on low-powered devices for this reason).  This is the same market that is being targeted by Firefox OS.  The need for higher-powered (and higher priced) phones is one of the reasons that Android (and its need of the Dalvik VM), and especially iOS, will likely have difficulty making headway in developing markets.


If you're going to bother to try to write an article about something, perhaps you should consider first becoming informed about the thing. It would save informed readers the time wasted reading your uninformed points and would spare those unfamiliar with Ubuntu from receiving inaccurate information.

david
david

Some good points, other practical aspects will include whether people will actually dock the phone to use as a computer (how many people have a HDMI monitor at home or work and of course the most important thing for a desktop environment, a keyboard), and how many people will just use it as a phone. One barrier to the desktop adoption is only a small number of us use Ubuntu and there is still no 100% compatible Office programme for the OS (Kingsoft Office where are u now that we need u?). I am excited by the EDGE, and hope it works. I agree the global market is going to be important, but ease of use may trump that. I hope the campaign works, I want this t be my next phone.

ePractical
ePractical

Points taken.

But I think if Canonical can include some capabilities badly missing in current mobile technology - like getting thing INTO mobile devices, with great Handwriting recognition and great Voice recognition (like Dragon) for private use. Then the market might be more flexible with their demands on Canonical since the Edge will do things those who have been waiting for a Productive focused mobile design finally will deliver.

Add Eccopro a sophisticated PIM (revitalizing the sophisticated strategic organizer space) and the Edge will have a decided advantages.

ricegf2013
ricegf2013

Um, the release date is May 31, 2014 - it's right there on Indiegogo, so I don't really follow point #9. 

And it includes free shipping to both UK and USA ($30 elsewhere), plus it works in all countries that provide GSM/3G/LTE-based network services and is specifically tested in Europe, USA, South America, China, India, the Middle East and Africa, so I'm puzzled by #5 as well. 

And of course, they promised from the start to provide free phones at specific perk levels - currently a mere $625, which is VERY aggressive for such a high end device (128 GB flash! 4 GB RAM! Sapphire screen! Ubuntu *and* Android!), so #3 caused some head-scratching here as well.

The other points are fair, though. T'will be a fun ride!

daboochmeister
daboochmeister

I think most of this article is actually describing necessary characteristics for whatever FOLLOWS Ubuntu Edge to succeed, that is, a later, commercialized version that builds on what's learned from the Edge experience. Yes, they are holding out the possibility that the Edge effort might bootstrap directly into a commercially feasible operation - but they're clear that the main focus is on innovators and experimentation. Call it "agile development for handset/mobile OS", and this is an early sprint.

ahanse
ahanse

The concept looks good considering the phone is central to most peoples lives these days. Your points also make sense but then they apply to almost any phone company. A couple of points I question though 5 and 7. Must it be global on the outset? Maybe after a short run to settle it down and perfect it, surely 12 months is not too much of an ask. We down under never got the Surface initially and that turned out a good thing. As for the desktop Canonical copped a blast when they went in the direction they took and maybe this is a way to remove that thorn. Yes it will be a shame as it is/was shaping up to be usable by a greater share of people. As you mention developing good quality apps is important, maybe it will open the door wider for Linux developers to get on board. 

M Wagner
M Wagner

@Craig.Humphrey@ChapmanTri 

I am sure they have but Microsoft knows that handheld devices will never be suitable for use with a fully-featured preemptive multitasking operating system like Windows (desktop).  This is why Microsoft's strategy is to build upon the WinRT (run-time) touch APIs.  WinRT runs under Windows 8.x as the new "Metro" UI and it runs natively on ARM (for tablets and smartphones.

M Wagner
M Wagner

@Vulpinemac 

I wouldn't have chosen the word "uneducated" but Linux has always required the user to have a considerable amount of "special knowledge" about its inner workings. 

Android is the first really successful attempt to bridge that gap between consumers and techies like us.  To what extent Android is still Linux is a different question. Since Shuttleworth has considered a dual-boot scenario, I suspect that Android is more of a "derivative" of Linux than it is a "flavor" of Linux - in the same sense that Ubuntu is a "flavor" (or alternative distro) of Linux. 

M Wagner
M Wagner

@ramraosaheb 

The GPL under which Linux is protected states as much.  Derivatives are supposed to be remain open-source.

M Wagner
M Wagner

@sire_tim 

Because competition for $$$ drives innovation.  Without innovation, there is no choice.  Consumers want choice.  Without choice, the economy stagnates.

Microsoft and Ubuntu both want a third choice for consumers.  Microsoft has the resources to compete against Apple (iOS) and Samsung (Android).  Does Ubuntu?

Phil.A
Phil.A

@sire_tim yes, let's completely ignore BlackBerry & Windows Phone, because RIM have been producing smart phones since before Apple even conceived of the iPhone, not to mention Nokia have taken on Windows Phone, and Apple have broken so many patents from Nokia :-P
so, if anyone is stupid, it's not this phone, it's that you're so blinkered!

jdieter
jdieter

@sire_tim because we dont want companies powning our devices. I want to install and remove the packages I want to install and remove. not the packages Microsft, google, or apple want on my phone. It's my hardware, and I dont like other people controlling what goes on it. That is the bottom line re: open source.