Mark Shuttleworth's vision: Is the future one device?

Moderated by Jason Hiner | July 29, 2013 -- 07:00 GMT (00:00 PDT)

Summary: Jason Perlow calls "one device" the natural evolution of Post-PC. Matt Baxter Reynolds says it's a solution in search of a problem.

Jason Perlow

Jason Perlow




Matt Baxter-Reynolds

Matt Baxter-Reynolds

Best Argument: Yes


Audience Favored: Yes (55%)

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

The natural evolution of Post-PC

Jason Perlow: Whether you are an adherent to developing for or an evangelist for Apple, Google, Microsoft's or Canonical's mobile operating systems, I believe that the basic concepts Mark Shuttleworth is championing with his crowd-funded "Edge" smartphone are fundamentally universal to the future of computing.

Specifically, I am referring to the fact that Shuttleworth believes that the smartphone of the future will be the single device at the center of the end-user's universe. In summary, it will act as a "brain" for the tablet, laptop, and even TV sets, which will simply be just modular display and peripheral extensions of the handheld device.

In the future, smartphones will contain the CPU, storage, and wireless connectivity "core" of the user experience, running on a unified mobile operating system — and in the case of the "Edge" should it achieve its super-ambitious funding targets, Ubuntu running on the ARM architecture. But it could very well and just as easily end up running on an operating system created by the usual suspects, even if the Edge never sees the light of day.

Instead of carrying three devices — a smartphone, tablet, and laptop, all of which would have discrete storage and memory, and would have to be independently managed — the user would just carry the smartphone and have attachable modules, such as a tablet screen, a large high-definition display, a detachable keyboard and wireless human interface devices that the smartphone would plug into or communicate with. That, along with seamless integration with Cloud-based services, is where I see the future of personal computing truly heading.

No one needs a device like this

Matt Baxter-Reynolds: In his video introduction to Ubuntu Edge, Mark Shuttleworth says that "convergence is the future of computing". What Ubuntu Edge is trying to do is *converge* two worlds -- PC and post-PC -- into a single device. (Yes, although it runs Linux, it's still a PC. It's just not a PC that runs Windows.)

First problem here, PC and post-PC devices are used for, and are good at, very different things. PCs are very good at focused work activities. Post-PC devices, like smartphones, are very good at being in the background, always available, always connected, ready to connect you into your digital life on a whim.

What Shuttleworth is actual describing here is "hybridity". Hybridity just means "mixing things". Sometimes, hybridity experiments result in valuable convergence. A great example is the camera phone.

But in more cases than not in our industry, hybridity does not create convergence, it just creates weird mishmashes of technology solutions looking for problems to solve.

Ubuntu Edge is just one destined-for-failure hybridity experiment that will forever be a cool solution looking for a problem. No one needs a device like this -- there is no problem it solves.


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  • From the title only, I'd say no.

    There may be nuances to address when the opening statements are made - but from the title alone, I'd say no. One device does not fit all needs. Treating people as cookie cutter does not help us as a society. I'd like to move away from this trend of treating everybody the same.
    Reply 7 Votes I'm for No
    • Exactly

      Even after reading the opening statements, I don't see a cell phone CPU ever doing half the things I do on my desktop. As it is now, even my overclocked extreme edition Intel CPU is slow at rendering large amounts of 1080p video. With 4k queued up to hit mainstream, the CPU is going to be taxed beyond belief. Only those who have render farms will be able to deliver 4k in a timely fashion.

      Then, there's CAD. This is another area where a cell phone CPU just isn't going to cut it for me. The number crunching, rendering, and processing of highly complex surfaces already bogs down a desktop.

      Time is money and a cell phone CPU is never going to perform better than a desktop CPU when processing vast amounts of information at high speed is your primary consideration. There will always be a need for both types of systems.
      Reply 1 Vote I'm Undecided
      • Today's supercomputers = tomorrow's smartphone/one-device

        If you compare the computing power of today's smartphones with desktop PCs of 5 years ago, there's not a lot of difference. With an efficient OS and no bloatware, the spod (Smart Phone/One Device) of 5 years hence will be capable of anything that today's desktops can do. Some people will use their spod primarily as a smart phone and others will use it primarily as the heart of what is effectively a desktop system but it will be just a spod. What I can see is many people owning 2 spods and having one dedicated to portable use and the other to stay-at-home (desktop) use. This has the advantage that you could use one to talk on the phone while using the other to access data - a combination of activities that's very difficult with one spod.
        Reply 2 Votes I'm Undecided
    • ZDnet likes to hold polls with misleading questions.

      "The future for who?" is the obvious question that must be answered before answering the poll question. I just finished reading about the 20 year history of Linux on supercomputers. Obviously one device will not fit all needs. But the Edge or a device like it may fit many people's needs. If the price point drops and an after market for accessories for connectivity develops a device like this just might be the computing device of the future for many people.
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • Indeed.

        "'The future for who?' is the obvious question that must be answered before answering the poll question."

        Indeed. When people say "____ is the future," they usually mean "____ is my own personal vision, and don't you dare question it."
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
  • Already there, almost.

    On an iPad Mini, but because of lack of BT Mouse support will be moving to Nexus 7, and hope that plugging it in at home will take care of word processing needs. Otherwise, I am already there (ok, I have a cheapo cellphone, but plan to drop it and get LTE on Nexus 7).
    I don't code, but I do design Apps.
    Reply Vote I'm for Yes
    • One device to rule them all

      If you want one single device to rule them all, then a Samsung Galaxy Note might be the best choice at the moment. It's small enough to be used as a phone, large enough to substitute for a small tablet, and Samsung sells a dock that will allow you to hook it up to a keyboard, mouse and monitor. The only think it's missing is a laptop dock like the Motorola Atrix had.
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
  • Why not when the perfect solution was given?

    Smartphone is getting powerful than ever, if we let smartphone doing the only 5 inch screen jobs would be overkill. Plus, Ubuntu can adapt three type of screen UI, make it extremely useful in any circumstances, if in future we can use one device for all thing, why would need to carry 3 (phone, tablet, notebook) device on going? Human NEED this!!

    Btw, if you think ubuntu smartphone can't do the tablet job, i suggest you check Asus padphone series, one device fit in all is future!

    *pardon my grammar.
    Reply Vote I'm for Yes
    • There's no such thing as a "one device for all thing."

      "if in future we can use one device for all thing, why would need to carry 3 (phone, tablet, notebook) device on going?"

      Because I'm not gonna type a novel on my smart phone at home when I have a large ergonomic keyboard on my desktop, and I'm not gonna haul around my desktop while waiting in line at the doctor's office.

      Just because *theoretically* I could type a novel on a phone doesn't mean it's ideal, and just because *theoretically* I could strap my desktop to my back and haul it around doesn't mean it's ideal.

      There's no such thing as a "one device for all thing."
      Reply 5 Votes I'm Undecided
      • What if?

        "Because I'm not gonna type a novel on my smart phone at home when I have a large ergonomic keyboard on my desktop"
        But what if your phone becomes sufficiently powerful to run your desktop software? Then you can replace your desktop with a keyboard, screen (and mouse if you like), and your phone in (or connect it wirelessly) when you get home.

        Having said that, all the evidence of the past 20 or so years suggests that as desktops become more powerful, we'll use that power. Even if it's for games, user interface or increasingly versatile software. My first PC (initially) had 4MB of RAM, 1MB of video memory and an 80GB disk. It was sufficient for DOS, Windows 3.x, Wordperfect, Visual Studio 6 and playing Doom. My current laptop has a 500GB disk with 500MB graphics memory and 8GB RAM. I use it for image processing (3D medical images, not 2D photo editing). I doubt a phone/tablet will be powerful enough for that soon, but it's more than enough for checking my email, a bit of casual web browsing and document editing.
        Reply 1 Vote I'm Undecided