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%)

Closing Statements

Hurtling toward platform unification

Jason Perlow

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

Matt Baxter-Reynolds

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.

See also:


Convergence ahead

Jason Hiner

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.


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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