Best Argument: Yes
Audience Favored: Yes (55%)
Hurtling toward platform unification
My opponent is well-known for being a proponent of the "Post-PC" philosophy, a term originally coined by Apple's Steve Jobs. He's even writing a book about it.
What Canonical's Mark Shuttleworth proposes with his Ubuntu Edge is going even further than Steve Jobs' "Post-PC" concept, and into what I would call Computing Convergence, for lack of a better term.
Shuttleworth has posted a few videos online in which he talks about how he envisions the future of Ubuntu Tablet/Mobile OS and the Ubuntu Edge Smartphone.
Of course, what Shuttleworth does not talk about in these videos describing the benefits of such platform unification or convergence is the back-end public and private cloud infrastructure that this mobile OS would need to leverage in order to run the most demanding sorts of applications, via web APIs and desktop as a service (DaaS).
However, this is implied. A mobile operating system cannot run enterprise application workloads, and despite a trend towards mobile apps, our desktop applications will be with us for a very long time even if the PC and x86 itself becomes an endangered species. This is something that my opponent has not once been able to address even with his Post-PC and PC death hypothesis that he is so fond of.
Over the years, I have talked at length about Cloud-based remote computing, and what shape and form the endpoint devices might have. I've used the term "The Screen" to refer to a SoC-based thin client that would be a hybrid of localized processing of mobile apps in combination with desktop apps running remotely in the datacenter.
I have also written some highly speculative things about what I thought computing would be like in the third decade of the 21st century. The reality is that many of things are closer to reality than I thought, whereas other things are still much further away.
Today, "The Screen" exists as discrete computing devices such as smartphones, tablets, set-top boxes (Apple TV, etc) and even thin clients like Chromebooks.
However, in the future, perhaps some five or ten years from now, that distinction between form factors may not even exist, because end-users all over the world with constrained financial means will drive new computing scenarios which that will force the device manufacturers as well as the software platform creators to adapt to this new modality and a Cloud-based paradigm shift away from localized processing.
For Shuttleworth's vision to become a reality, you need platform unification. In other words, the smartphone, tablet and desktop OS need to become the same operating system, the same developer target and ultimately, the same device.
Clearly, this is a natural evolution from what Canonical is doing with Ubuntu, what Microsoft is doing with Windows, what Google is doing with Android and Chrome, and even what Apple is doing with iOS and Mac OS X.
Market's not in the mood for reimagining the PC
I've enjoyed reading the thoughts from my esteemed colleague, but I still don't know what this thing is *for*.
Confession time: I totally forgot to do this closing statement before I went on location. I'm in a hospital waiting room typing this on my phone. I'm *literally* phoning it in.
And you know what? It's fine. Because its a post-PC device and its doing what it needs to do well.
Edge isn't a post-PC device. It's a tiny PC that's also a smartphone. It's more of reimagining of the PC than anything else. And the market isn't in the mood for reimagining of the PC. What the market likes is dirt cheap, "just about good enough kit".
I admire Shuttleworth's idea of "Formula 1 for phones", and I have invested in the IndieGoGo campaign to the tune of $700-odd, but I'm struggling to see how any outcome of the project will result in a successful post-PC, Consumerland project.
- Ubuntu: One OS, one interface, all devices
- Ubuntu Edge might just change the computing world
- Shuttleworth's one device: The smartphone is the tablet and the PC
- The PC of 2023 is your smartphone and cloud
Matt Baxter-Reynolds is right that convergence has to be about simplicity first. And Jason Perlow nails it when he says that user experience is a massive challenge for these convergence devices and that it literally makes or breaks the outcome.
The question then becomes whether there's a possibility that someone can do a seamless user experience that unites devices, saves people money by limiting the amount of computing power they are forced to purchase, and uses the cloud to help simplify roaming across multiple screens.
Based on the arguments in this debate, Perlow did a lot more to convince me that it's not only possible--but highly likely--and so he gets the nod. The Ubuntu Edge may not revolutionize the market, but as a concept it may catalyze convergence, even if it never sees the light of day.