After second thought, this is why Ubuntu for Android will fail

I was initially quite excited to hear about Ubuntu for Android. At first glance it seemed to be the perfect meld of mobile and desktop. At least until it became clear that a) Ubuntu for Android was only available to manufactures and b) the desktop was only available when the phone was docked.

Both are quite reasonable decisions by Canonical.

At the end of the day, hobbyists were not going to make Ubuntu for Android a profitable product, so making it available to the general public was not going to be a high priority. Real dollars could only be made from the support contracts entered into by corporations looking to streamline their disparate mobile and desktop infrastructure.

And traditional desktop apps have only ever sucked on touch based devices, let alone something as small as a  phone screen. Accessing the Ubuntu desktop from the phone was going to ensure that Ubuntu for Android was a frustrating experience.

Unfortunately, both decisions have also doomed the project to failure.

The only reason why corporations are even looking at supporting a mobile infrastructure is because the majority of their employees have embraced their mobile phones as a way of life, and the discontented murmurs of  thousands of employees who can't work out why they can't get their work emails on their mobiles has become a cacophony the CTO and IT managers can't ignore.

This movement from desktop to mobile is exactly what Ubuntu for Android is counting on to make it a success, and yet it is exactly the kind of  grass roots movement it has ignored thanks to the fact that it is not available to the very hobbyists who should be leading the charge. Nothing will inspire the widespread adoption of Ubuntu for Android like an IT department full of nerds who have nothing but good things to say about their  Ubuntu for Android enabled phones.

Locking the Ubuntu desktop away until the phone is docked also ignores the practical reality of why people will want to have a desktop OS on their phones.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, it all comes down to apps. For business users this really means it all comes down to accessing your data. What good is having LibreOffice on your phone if you can't access your spreadsheets without a dock, monitor, keyboard and mouse? Under what circumstance are business users going to have access to a monitor, dock, keyboard and mouse without having access to a PC with an internet connection?

It would seem to me that there exists a very narrow set of circumstances were docking an Ubuntu for Android phone would be more convenient that simply using a phone as a glorified USB memory stick, using cloud based apps and storage, using a remote desktop, or carrying an ultrabook.

Imagine this scenario - Jimmy the Ubuntu for Android user takes a call from his boss in the airport.

Hi boss. Those sales figures are on my phone, let me dig them up. Oh, sorry, my Android spreadsheet app doesn't do macros, but thankfully I have Ubuntu for Android. Let me just find a monitor, keyboard and mouse.

5 mins later.

Ok boss, the internet kiosk guy was happy to let me disconnect one of his PCs. Let me just set up my phone.

5 mins later. Jimmy is now shouting into a docked phone.

They ordered one thousand units boss. Sorry for the mucking around.

Imagine this scenario - Jimmy the Google docs user takes a call from his boss in the airport.

Hi boss. Those sales figures are in Google docs. Let me pull them up.

10 seconds later.

They ordered one thousand units boss.

Imagine this scenario - Jimmy the ultrabook user takes a call from his boss in the airport.

Hi boss. Those sales figures are on my ultrabook. Let me boot it up.

8 seconds later.

They ordered one thousand units boss.

Being able to access your desktop only when docked provides a misplaced sense of mobility and accessibility. It will lead to more support calls, not less. It adds to the confusing distinction between mobile and desktop apps, and ultimately will only be useful to those users who are already quite IT savvy, and who can work around the lack of a dock by uploading their macro enabled spreadsheet into dropbox, syncing it to their desktop back in the office, establishing a remote desktop connection and then navigating a desktop interface on a small touch screen.


Well you can always look for tools which works on all platforms. One such tool is CollateBox looks very handy when it comes to online data sharing and collaboration , have a look at this one
Kerry said…
Thanks for the link, I jus registered with CollateBox looks very interesting tool to me. Mean while can u share some more insights about the product
Maxim Milyutin said…
When your blog is brighthub in it I read the great lessons of flashpunk, but when moving to blogspot they were lost. Please let me know at where i can read these lessons.
Anonymous said…
I did the exact same thing. Can't find your blog entries on flashpunk anywhere. :/
yman said…
I think you are missing some things:
1. The source will be released when it's ready, but that won't make much of a difference due to hardware support limiting the devices on which hobbyists can install it.
2. The desktop interface doesn't have to replace Google Docs. You make it seem like a black or white proposition. Ubuntu for Android doesn't limit mobility and decreases the number of devices a company would need to provide to employees. It is also more convenient if you can use a docking station instead of switching to another device. Instead of carrying a laptop or netbook around you can carry a laptop-like portable docking station, which should also be cheaper. So it improves mobility.
Andrew said…
Here's another thing you are gravely missing.

The entire reason this was even thought up was the appearance of 'Webtops' Now I own a webtop phone (most motorolas are, I have an Atrix 4G which is near 3 years old now), its basically a phone with a partitioned HDD, and a backup charger with a built in screen, speakers and keyboard that comes with it. When you jack the phone it, as well as charging it you can use the phones processing etc to power this mini laptop.

Now that currently runs 'Webtop OS' a locked down version of Linux built by Motorola, but the community has already managed to get Debian running on it, the issue is that there are some interconnectivity features missing on vanilla Debian, like being able to be working on a Doc or webpage on Android, and when you change to the Webtop the tabs on your phone appear as windows on the screen,

Now in short, the problem with Webtop OS was the apps were very limited (by lack of sudo access) and the binaries weren't compatible with any other *nixes. This solves that, and seeing as the newer webtop can now connect a phone through its mini USB port if it needs, to, it could potentially work with tons of machines.
Tom said…
I really don't see how ubuntu for android will incontinence anyone. If you have a spread sheet on your phone you could easily access it with either android or ubuntu. The problem ubuntu for android solves is the need for a secondary device like a laptop or netbook. Entering data on a phone with a small screen is a nightmare. Ubuntu for android most likely wont even require a dock if it ever sees the light of day, So the argument that it requires a special dock is BS. An HDMI cable and a bluetooth keyboard would accomplish the same thing.
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Anonymous said…
If You Love Android PhoneAndroid Phone 2012 Detail :)
I just read the blog. Interesting. Thought you say, 'Ubuntu for Android' is going to be a failure, I don't think so. May be your point of view in predicting this situation is perfect. Always carrying a monitor, keyboard and a mouse is a worst idea. I would not be happy to do that. But let me see, If this particular version of Ubuntu allows users to switch from Android to Ubuntu without a cable or separate monitor, say when installed on a Android Tablet, like Asus Transformer or some other likes, Voila!

Though docking smartphone as CPU will be frustrating. But using Tablet as Ultrabook will be more enjoyable and easy in day to day life.
Adey said…
hmmm... how might a spreadsheet be available almost instantly on my phone and desktop? I know, I'll get some convoluted docking solution that uses linux, that doesn't exactly do that or... how about iCloud and iWork installed in both my macbook and iPhone.

No wonder Apple is laughing at these tards

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