“Unity” means Phones, Tablets, TV’s and Smart Screens – Says Mark Shuttleworth


Ubuntu, the Debian based GNU/Linux distribution has quickly become the number one desktop choice among GNU/Linux users. And very recently they introduced a desktop module of their own called the “Unity” which represents the idea of a unifying desktop that’s designed (or currently designing, let’s not get ahead of ourselves now shall we :) ) run on all sort of devices, according to the founder of Ubuntu, Mark Shuttleworth.

He started this latest post of his by saying that  …

“By 14.04 LTS Ubuntu will power tablets, phones, TVs and smart screens from the car to the office kitchen, and it will connect those devices cleanly and seamlessly to the desktop, the server and the cloud…”

He has some strong facts backing up the above statement too, again in his own words …

“… just as the world is changing for manufacturers so is it changing for Linux distributions. Today, 70% of people in Egypt access the Internet solely via the phone. Even in the US that figure is a startling 25%…”

To be honest, I’m not a developer of any kind thus I don’t have the faintest idea of how to designed a good UI, etc. But if the future consists of a unified desktop, then I think designing such a desktop module will be the ultimate test for the developers.

And concerning my own personal thoughts, I too used to hate it, a lot (Unity I meant, the desktop ;-) ). But then after using it for a while, although I’m far from “loving it” but I do have mixed feelings mostly because I’m just a regular user who spend a lot of time with a web-browser rather than any other app and I kinda like it, a bit.

But while I was reading the comments section of the above post from Mark, I realized that other users such as graphic designers may not be that fond of the Unity desktop at all because…

… I guess is that the main reasons for that is because the left dock can be a bit irritating since almost all the graphic designing suits come with a tool-bars float to the left side (GIMP, Inkscape, etc) of the screen and Ubuntu uses the left-side as a “fixed” location for the Application launcher.

And concerning Microsoft, they did take their time and one just cannot ignore them because we’ve already seen that the upcoming Windows 8 has a separate desktop module called Metro-Style which is not optimized only for touch-screen based devices but to be used under other “needs” as well.

In their own words…

“Although the new user interface is designed and optimized for touch, it works equally well with a mouse and keyboard. Our approach means no compromises -- you get to use whatever kind of device you prefer, with peripherals you choose, to run the apps you love…”via: Previewing ‘Windows 8′ (by Microsoft Press Resources).

It’s like with AMD and Intel. Every time AMD seems to gain a bit of an advantage over Intel, Intel just comes out of nowhere and rocks the heck out of it (the “situation”, I mean :D).

So, Ubuntu has to be really careful here because some still don’t like the Unity desktop but then again most of those issues can almost always be traced back to the “application launcher” (I may be wrong here) + most graphic designers absolutely love Apple Mac OSX and Unity resembles it a lot, except for that App-launcher.

But I do understand the dilemma that lies ahead of Mark and the Ubuntu developers.

Because most of us would just love to have an “app-dock” at the bottom, but as most would agree, happiness usually lies in doing, and let’s say that in the future Ubuntu achieves her desired goals (by building a Mac Replica for instance); then when looking back if all they/we see is nothing but someone Else’s shadow, all that hard-work … all that, for nothing (except for Microsoft doesn’t think so and never shy of “inspirations”).

But the rest assured, the Unity desktop already has new ideas of her own too (Ayatana scroll-bars, new Software Center, Alt-Tab UI, etc) and if they can find a balance between pride and humility, I think Ubuntu can do it!.

We now have game developers developing Windows games for GNU/Linux, Ubuntu certified hardware programs (means GNU/Linux certified since Ubuntu uses the same Kernel), awesome cloud OS and an infrastructure… man that should count for something!.

Mark had this “vision” for sometime now and in an interview that took place around 2003 with the Guardian … he said…

Question: Do you think that GNU/Linux will ever become a significant force on the desktop?

MS Answer: “I think that depends on how people define a desktop. If people continue to define a desktop as the thing that they run Microsoft Word on, then Windows will retain its position. My sense, though, is that people are increasingly defining the desktop as the thing that they get access to the internet from. In that case, there’s a real possibility that we’re able to shift people onto different platforms.”

I don’t agree on everything that Mark has to say and personally I think Ubuntu carries a bit different philosophy than GNU/Linux does … but I just sometimes wonder if it wasn’t for Ubuntu a lot of things couldn’t simply have happened + I just love the enthusiasm of this Mark dude too, not always though :).

Again, in his own words…

We are determined to bring more free software to more people around the world, and building that future hand in hand with device manufacturers is the best way to do it. There is no winner in place yet. This opportunity remains wide open, but only to products that deliver excellent experiences for users, across a full range of device categories…

There is a great deal to discuss, and an array of strands we need to pull together at UDS. But the direction is clear and the prize is great – to bring more free software to more people in more delightful ways than ever before…”

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