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Ubuntu Edge or the edge of innovation

27 July 2013 / 00:07:03  GRReporter
6457 reads

Ivan Petkov

Pre-history

In 2007, the United States technology giant Apple revolutionized mobile technology and, to some extent, continued to do so in 2010 with the introduction of the iPad tablet. Although over the past three years the competition in the sector of mobile devices, smartphones and tablets has significantly increased and we are already talking about market saturation, there has been nothing that could boost the industry. This is innovation. Its absence was strongly felt by Apple. Samsung, the other company with a large market share and huge budget for research and development of new technologies has also slowed down. To be honest, they presented some useful and interesting things which we would have perceived as revolutionary only 4-5 years ago. However, at this pace of development, they proved insufficient and were perceived as evolution. Koreans, more or less, followed Apple’s example, namely that each new device offers the features necessary to convince the majority of users that it is worth buying. The marketing of figures has triumphed over the thirst for innovation. The companies have become more prudent, the interests of investors have taken the place of pioneer spirit. Logically, this is a grave danger for every successful company.

The late Steve Jobs had included in his emblematic speech to the graduates of Stanford University a wish to protect innovators and businesses from their own success, "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." High profits lead to another specific and enhanced appetite and the result of it is "obesity" that hampers innovation. However, another pattern shows that the companies which are struggling to establish themselves are precisely the ones which are willing to risk and rely on innovation.

Canonical, which lies behind the popular Linux distribution, Ubuntu, is neither a young nor a small company and it has extensive experience in the struggle for survival, competing with established technology giants. Ubuntu, as an operating system, has its loyal fans but it has to fight with names and companies like Microsoft and its Windows, and Apple and its MacOS. In practice, GNU / Linux is installed on less than 1% of all computers and Ubuntu is one of the distributions that makes up this market share.

After years of neglect and a lack of support for Linux from hardware manufacturers, the appearance of tablets and smartphones is an opportunity that Canonical could seize. Moreover, the recently popular netbooks are a bitter experience from which it can learn many lessons. Namely that Linux distributions were preferred for the operating systems of netbooks, but they posed too many problems and were too difficult for ordinary users. Linux was not ready yet. Google demonstrated, through Android, that it is possible for regular users to use a Linux-based operating system. Moreover, Android is currently the most popular and the most widely used mobile operating system.

Three years ago, Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical and Ubuntu, made a radical turn with the introduction of Unity, a new working environment for Ubuntu and he was strongly criticized for this move. Mark Shuttleworth replied to the accusations of users and developers that, although Ubuntu is an open source platform and defends the principles of open source software, Ubuntu and Canonical are not democracy. After this statement, with a significant dose of irony, Mark Shuttleworth was compared to Steve Jobs. This comparison was necessary because of the desire of Ubuntu’s creator to be a visionary and innovator, and for his persistence in pursuing his goals. Only a few believed that such an ironic comparison would be reasonable. Today, the number of people who think of Mark Shuttleworth as a man with a clear and innovative vision is much higher.

Why is Unity so important? It is because this interface is designed for use on any screen size. In other words, it is designed to be used both by traditional desktop personal computers and by tablets and smartphones. A single operating system controls them all. Excuse me but I could not refrain from associating it with Tolkien’s "Lord of the Rings".

The edge

The concept of a "next generation superphone - Ubuntu Edge" was presented three days ago. In order for it to be a truly innovative product that deserves its name, Ubuntu Edge must be a mix of hardware and software that will bring something new which no one else offers. In addition, it should be a qualitative leap in technological terms. Canonical compares the superphone with a Formula 1 car as it will be the first to introduce technologies which, eventually, will be introduced on a mass scale later. Let us see if Ubuntu Edge meets all criteria and our expectations regarding a truly innovative product.

Technical innovation

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