Back in 2013, Canonical – the company behind the open source Ubuntu OS – tried to achieve the idea of having just one computing device for all our needs through the power of convergence which basically lets a single device like a smartphone work in a way that it can used for both desktop and portable purposes. Now they’re back again with the same vision, but this time, with a 10.1-inch tablet which can be turned into a Ubuntu PC with some additional hardware.
Canonical’s CEO Jane Silber had a chat with The Verge in which she mentioned that The definitions of “specific form factors are increasingly arcane and outdated,”. “I think what’s happening in the industry is the blurring of those segments and the need for a consistent platform and user experience across those,” added Silber.
Just like its previous devices, this time, too Canonical hasn’t moved much when it comes to the hardware. They’ve taken up the Aquaris M10 tablet from Spanish manufacturer BQ and affixed their own software with it. As far as the specs are concerned, the M10 sports a 10.1-inches display on front with a resolution of 1280 x 800, a MediaTek processor clocked at 1.5GHz along with 2GB of RAM, 16GB internal storage expandable up to 64GB, 7280mAh battery underneath, a Micro HDMI port for connection to an external display and for build, the company offers an extremely lightweight (weighs less than the iPad Air) plastic chassis that feels more premium than cheap.
The hardware is nothing that you get on other flagship devices but that’s not important here, the main focus of the story is the software. The M10 is the first Ubuntu device to run a mobile version of the OS with convergence capabilities. The sad news is however that you can’t run this on older devices as they lack ports required for the process but Canonical says they’re working on it.
The M10 is, first of all, a Tablet and the company has done a good job in making the experience sublime, unlike other platforms out there, Ubuntu OS doesn’t have any home screen or app drawers, instead, there are scopes – screens that accumulate relevant information from applications, for instance, News or messages. The taskbar that also holds some pinned applications can be accessed by swiping in from the left and if you do the same from right, you will be greeted with a carousel-style app switcher with the recently opened programs. Obviously, for now, you can say this OS has an app problem and doesn’t support major titles when compared to iOS, Android or even Windows to be honest but Canonical is right now focusing more on the basics that include emails, music etc.
The Ubuntu mobile OS, however gets the upper hand in the framework section as both the mobile and desktop share the same core, i.e. the apps you can run PC can be operated on the mobile counterpart. Software like LibreOffice already have support for this and with Canonical’s flexible developer tools, more developers will soon take interest too probably.
Of course, everything we just talked about is available in the market with Microsoft’s new Continuum feature and latest Windows 10 handhelds. They follow the same pattern, plug in a monitor, keyboard and a mouse, you’re all set to use a phone like a PC. Although as I said before Ubuntu gets an advantage when it comes to the framework as with Windows, there are two different environments running at the core.
Canonical however, isn’t worried about the competition and considers them a betterment of technology, “We share a vision with Microsoft,” says Silber. “I think they see have a very similar view of what’s happening in the personal computing space.” She adds: “On the one hand it’s competition, on the other hand it’s reinforcement.”
According to The Verge that got a quick hands-on with the device, the transitions are smooth when switching from mobile to PC but the OS isn’t bug free as of now, that’s mostly because they were not using the final build and with new technologies, you always get these shortcomings during the first few iterations.
The idea of having just one device for all digital purposes is a dream that a lot of manufacturers will try to accomplish in the future and I can’t be more excited about it, as you won’t be moving files from one device to another all the time. Sure arguments that will debate on the fact that with cloud, this isn’t really that hard to achieve but with convergence, things will be a lot smoother and simplified. Yes, it will take some time to go mainstream but it will eventually.
Ending the conversation, Silber states “It’s a journey. It doesn’t all happen in a single product, but we’re very confident that this is the direction the industry is going, We admittedly don’t have the ultimate answer to all things personal computing right now, but we’re taking some exciting steps that provide a taste of what the future can be.”