From the department of poor prognostication, I am happy to say that I may have been very wrong about the Librem 5. When the device was initially announced, I came down on Purism for trying to bring to life a Linux smartphone in a market that had no room for anything but Android and iOS.
Yeah, about that....
Turns out the Librem 5 pretty quickly met and exceeded its Kickstarter, raising 137% of its goal ($2,068,014, where they were only shooting for $1,500,000). But funding can be fairly easy to come by. You find a few big donors and, wham, you're golden. The real tell in this rise is the third-party support that is coming on board to support the Librem 5. Almost out of the gate, GNOME hopped on the Purism train. Soon after that, it was KDE. Now? Nextcloud.
You know Nextcloud, right? The fork of Owncloud that's making huge inroads to business and enterprise on-premise cloud servers. That Nextcloud.
What exactly is Nextcloud doing with the Librem 5? Not just baking Nextcloud services into the device (although, that is going to happen). What Nextcloud is doing with Purism is something pretty cool. The new partnership will bring new end-to-end storage products and services to Purism. This doesn't just stop with the Librem 5; the new partnership is focused on also bringing to life NAS devices, which will include Nextcloud's powerful cloud-based tools.
SEE: Mobile device computing policy (Tech Pro Research)
All about the phone
Although the idea of a NAS device, built by Purism and Nextcloud, sounds really intriguing, I want to focus on the Librem 5. What does the addition of Nextcloud do for this smartphone? First and foremost, it does something the Ubuntu Phone never managed to achieve—add a built-in cloud service to the device. Any new mobile platform cannot succeed without a cloud service built in. Android has Google, iOS has iCloud. Now, the Librem 5 now has its own cloud service to use. With Nextcloud rolled in, the Librem 5 can easily work with any Nextcloud server. Of course, that does depend upon the user having access to a Nextcloud server. I can only hope Purism and Nextcloud will work on a solution that will offer hosted cloud services that any Librem 5 owner can take advantage of.
Of course, we are talking about a phone geared primarily for Linux users—users who, for the most part, could easily spin up a Nextcloud server for use with their smartphone. Nextcloud already has a mobile client for both iOS and Android, so the bundling of Nextcloud and the Librem 5 is a no-brainer.
The icing on that particular cake is the built-in end-to-end encryption. Mobile security can no longer be seen as an afterthought. With the rise of data theft, every mobile device needs serious security. Nextcloud will bring just that to the Librem 5. I have carefully watched, as Nextcloud bakes in more and more security into their server platform. In fact, the upcoming Nextcloud 13 will see the first public release of end-to-end encryption in their server and mobile client. This is the very technology that will bolster the Librem 5.
The one question
There is but one question looming over this partnership. Will the end-to-end encryption only serve the Nextcloud client/server communication? My guess is that is the case. However, since this is the Linux platform, users could easily add encryption to their email (such as with GnuPG/Thunderbird/Enigmail). And we mustn't forget, the Librem 5 will, out of the box, use end-to-end encrypted decentralized communication. With that in mind, we now have encrypted communications, encrypted folder sync, and the ability to easily install GnuPG. That's an impressive start for a device that has yet to see a beta release.
SEE: Special report: Cybersecurity in an IoT and mobile world (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
An underdog with bite
All told, the Librem 5 is starting to look like one of the single most promising open source-centric phones to have ever been dreamed up. But don't think Purism is going to be relegated to "dream" or "vaporware" status. The Librem 5 is going to happen. And even if it only gains traction within the open source community, it will be an underdog with bite. Third-parties are taking notice of the Librem 5. The partnership between Purism and Nextcloud means serious business. Who knows what new partners will jump on board next.
Personally, I cannot wait to have a Librem 5 in my hands. What about you?
- Why nobody's made a successful Linux-based phone yet (TechRepublic)
- Why mobile users still have to put up with underperforming operating systems (TechRepublic)
- How to install the Nextcloud Client on Ubuntu (TechRepublic)
- Nextcloud ramps up to a global scalable solution (TechRepublic)
- Apple COO Jeff Williams: Mobile is a major AI platform (ZDNet)
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 jackwallen.com.