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Ubuntu focuses on mobile devices

Ubuntu focuses on mobile devices

Posted Nov 3, 2011 18:53 UTC (Thu) by tshow (subscriber, #6411)
Parent article: Ubuntu focuses on mobile devices

It's seemed to me for a while that, intentionally or not, Canonical is headed down the same road as Apple. They are making similar UI decisions, they are focusing on similar platforms (ie: mobile and laptop are important, desktop and server are not), and they are chasing similar users (the technically less savvy).

There is a niche there, to be sure. The problem for Canonical, though, is that they may not be able to follow where Apple is going. Apple is heading for completely locked down appliance computing; to Apple, the future looks more like the iPad than it does the iMac. Apple makes its own hardware and their most profitable products are locked-down mobile devices, so it can drive the changes it wants to see.

Canonical doesn't have that.

On OSX, you can look at the UI damage they are doing to their desktop experience as part of a process of migrating all their users to locked-down appliances. As someone forced to use an OSX machine on a regular basis, the user experience since 10.4 has been one of gradual decay and dumbing down, culminating (so far) in things like the LauchPad launcher (which is basically the iPad launcher for your mac). Many of the banner features of Lion only make sense on a single-screen touch-enabled device.

Apple is also about to start enforcing sandboxing in everything that sells through the mac app store.

You can see where it ends; it's a fairly obvious strategy to funnel all their users into locked-down computing appliances. I think we're a few product generations away from Apple ceasing to sell "personal computers" to the general public. Whether they stop making them for app-developers or not is a question of whether they can get xcode to play nicely in the sandbox.

We're probably ten years away from that, but that's where Apple is headed, at least currently. They've long since decided that the professional market is worth a tiny fraction of the nonprofessional mass market.

Again, I don't see how Canonical can follow them there. People will still be trying to install Ubuntu on general purpose PCs, unless Canonical pulls support for that. Apple can drive their customers to locked down consumer appliance computing simply by adjusting their product lineup, but Canonical is at the mercy of whatever the downloader wants to install on.

I do think Apple is a very bad role model here, one that too many projects are following. What Apple is doing works very well for Apple, but in order to reap the benefits, you have to be completely vertically integrated the way Apple is.

Beyond that, Apple's designer-driven appliance computing model is one that I personally find unfortunate, the lasting effects of which are going to be very hard to shake off.

Aside: please, no more "David and Goliath" analogies.

The story of David and Goliath is a terrible analogy; people take it as a story of the triumph of faith over certain doom, when it's really quite the opposite. It's a story about an intelligent fighter winning a battle by choosing not to fight on his opponent's terms. If you'd actually been there for the battle between the two, you would not have been surprised in the least by the outcome.

I once took a course that considered ancient stories (the old testament, the illiad, the viking sagas...) as flawed but useful mirrors on the past. Part of the thesis of the course was that you could tell a lot about what a society was like by the things they glossed over, since that's what the authors would have assumed to be common knowledge in their readers.

When we got to the story of David and Goliath, I remember the prof pointing out a couple of things; David was a shepherd in a time when one of the jobs of a shepherd was to keep wolves and lions from eating the sheep. The sling he used would have been a full-sized fighting sling capable of throwing a fist-sized stone hard enough to seriously inconvenience a lion at range. Those slings are shockingly accurate as well, once you get good with them. The prof from the course was a farm boy growing up, and he said it only took him a couple of months of practice to get good enough to cut a sparrow out of the air mid-flight.

David (sensibly) refused armor and a heavy weapon. So, you have an unarmored (and thus quick), agile person with a powerful ranged weapon.

On the other side, you have a beefy guy in bronze armor with a thrusting spear. Not a throwing spear, a spear that you hold onto and stab someone with.

The fight started at range.

I'd have bet on the lightly-armored nimble guy with the powerful ranged weapon, personally, rather than the slow stabber. If David had taken the heavy weapons and armor he'd been offered (and with which he was untrained), and engaged in a close-quarters battle with Goliath, the story would have ended very differently.

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Ubuntu focuses on mobile devices

Posted Nov 4, 2011 0:03 UTC (Fri) by fuhchee (guest, #40059) [Link]

"I once took a course that considered ancient stories..."

Fascinating. Could you give a reference to the course, or some of the teaching materials?

Ubuntu focuses on mobile devices

Posted Nov 4, 2011 0:55 UTC (Fri) by tshow (subscriber, #6411) [Link]

It was a (3rd year undergrad? maybe 4th?) course at University of Toronto, I believe the prof was Joseph Goering. If I recall correctly, the course was called "History of Warfare", which I suppose was sort of true.

The reference texts were The Illiad, the Old Testament, Machiavelli's "The Prince", The Song of Roland, and (IIRC) Harald's Saga, with a few other sources thrown in as well.

It was an excellent course; it might as well have been called "Prof. Goering grinds all his axes while taking questions.".

The biblical stuff was fascinating in a lot of ways, mostly because if you actually sit down and read the sources some of the things that happen are nothing like the popular perception. The example that sticks in the mind is that of Moses and the Red Sea. If you actually read the source, what happens is this:

The Egyptians are on chariots, and are closing on Moses and his people. Moses says "There's a sea, and the tide is out, so let's stand on the mud flats waiting for the Egyptians." The Egyptians drive out into the mud flats, their chariots bog down in the mud, and Moses and crew attack.

That's much more interesting to me than the "Moses snapped his fingers and God fixed everything" Charlton Heston version.

One of the things Prof. Goering pointed out at that point was that Moses' people destroyed the chariots. They didn't keep them, they chopped them up and burned them despite the tactical advantage they offered in battle. His belief was that they recognized that a chariot-based military requires an aristocracy simply to support the maintenance burden, and they weren't interested in living in such a society.

There was a whole section on the course about the Song of Roland, which is kind of an odd story because the core of it is a real story (a battle between Basque rebels and some of Charlemagne's forces that went badly for the Carolingians), but the 11th century rewrite recasts it as part of the Reconquista and changes the Basques to Saracens.

Machiaveilli's work was interesting. He gets a bad rap, but given when he was operating, his heart was in the right place.

Harald's saga was a lot of fun, and fit with the theme of the course quite well. The bit where Harald meets Harold Godwinson is priceless. Harald and his forces are waiting for a parley with the English, and a messenger rides up from the English side. Harald tells the messenger to tell the English King that he is there for lands that are rightfully his. The messenger tells him "The King says you are to be granted only six feet of English soil, or as much more as you are taller than other men.", and then rides off.

Harald turns to one of his people and says something about how the messenger was pretty mouthy for a functionary, and someone says "Oh, didn't you know? That was King Harold."

Machiavelli the troll

Posted Nov 10, 2011 0:24 UTC (Thu) by man_ls (guest, #15091) [Link]

My sources tell me that Machiavelli was just trolling, and it completely fits with what the book actually says. Pity that your prof didn't grind this particular axe, as is sadly not a reputable source.

Machiavelli the troll

Posted Dec 3, 2011 0:44 UTC (Sat) by Pageofswords (guest, #81668) [Link]

Actually, Rosseau was the first to propose that Machiavelli was, in fact, a troll. But also exposed by, Rosseau was a complete jackass. Not exactly a reputable source either. To most scholars, the "troll" theory is pretty much equal with "Machiavelli the immoral", "Machiavelli the amoral" (he was a pragmatic and a scientist, who didn't believe in what he wrote but wrote it how it was), and "Machiavelli the new moralist". Cracked probably should have mentioned these possibilities, but no matter how informative it is it's still a comedy website.

Ubuntu focuses on mobile devices

Posted Nov 4, 2011 11:31 UTC (Fri) by dgm (subscriber, #49227) [Link]

It's a possibility, but it may happen that a part of the mass market that Apple is after will be pissed off as Apple gets more confident and tries to tighten it's grip on their pockets.
All those people, if this came to be, will be grateful that there's a door out of the walled garden: Ubuntu. I'm not sure if this is the plan of Shuttleworth. It's too quixotic and unpractical for his way of thinking, but it's really where Ubuntu is going right now: to became an scape way for a fraction of a fraction of the mass market.

Ubuntu focuses on mobile devices

Posted Nov 12, 2011 3:59 UTC (Sat) by wtanksleyjr (subscriber, #74601) [Link]

Awesome comment and probably true -- but as an aside, cutting a sparrow out of the air is trivial and easily done by a first-time sling novice, as my brother discovered to his shame. Nesting sparrows hunt for insects to feed their young but aren't experts; they will therefore seek out moving objects without accurately judging their nature and danger, making them easy prey to sling pellets.

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