Future Touch



  • I was going to post this as a response to “Spreading UT to the world” but it’s become a tome and is perhaps a bit of a thread-jack, so I’m starting a new post.

    I've been tracking UT since the original concept push by Mark Shuttleworth, but it’s only now I’ve had the spare finances to acquire a device to run it on, a Nexus 5. I was using Android for a year on a basic phone and it was detestable, even after ripping as much out of it as I could and stopping the non-essential services. I find that UT is a sweet delight, mostly working and I'm very pleased with it.

    So my opinions, for what they’re worth, right or wrong. Forgive me if I’m repeating already-established ideas or countering established direction. I’m also largely speaking from the perspective of the platform being fluent with contemporary hardware because otherwise the scope is far too narrow. I believe from what I’ve read that this is something that is in-progress and achievable. I’m not a marketing person, but have interest in the area.

    I think UT should be expectation/market-led vs the typically inverted techie position of “hey, we’ve a sweet phone here that does all this cool stuff, you’ll love it.” I guess all the Android alternatives are “really cool” too. My suggestion is to look at naturally aligned (and thus) receptive (niche) markets to gain traction with prior to worrying about wider deployment. With that said, I figure techie markets are where it’s at -- but the market-led approach remains the same -- an easy thing to garble with such a match up. I presume this is broadly what Canonical tried to do, but I happen to believe it still holds true and is a good approach.

    Following on, I think there should a be discussion regarding the base image, regarding installed apps & settings/configuration. Plumb it for the target market and not for mass-market. It’s an evolution. This also opens the door to the install group approach based on intended usage (which could be worked as post first-boot downloads instead of adding them to the image.) Further: default bookmarks in the browser etc that are inline with the market segment and/or pulled in by the install group and so forth. Make the phone cozy with the target segment, not to an anonymous one-size-fits-all case.)

    It's not enough for most people to know that the phone is 'a great privacy platform' despite media-pumped interest in this. That won't sell UT because in my view, the bulk of people don't care enough and (effectively) surrender themselves for that next feature-that-profiles-you so long as they get their candy. When I think about Alexa et-al, I wonder wtf is going on in the mindset of the average consumer. However, given that the news media loves scandals and privacy-related news stories, there is indeed a marketing funnel right there for UT to tap into and exploit.

    Take a look at Blackberry. I'm familiar with the BB10/Classic and it's a beautiful device, but privacy wasn't enough for BB to maintain their share, despite the strong understanding that BB=privacy. Okay, touch-screen keyboard was an iOS/Android killer feature, but the Priv and Key-series phones haven't exactly turned the world upside down and they're Android-based. There are other privacy-led firms that haven’t cracked the Android market from within. Consider that the BB10 was equipped with a functional Android subsystem. It wasn't a game-changer with an established name, so why would it be for UT now? I get it we're not comparing like-things here, but it's in the same spectrum. Microsoft failed with their phone and although I've never seen one in the wild, my understanding is that it’s an excellent bit of kit. They also fitted Android as (presumably) an attempt to save it, like BB. Therefore, Android-compatibility does not save failing platforms.

    Canonical dropped UT. Plugging in Android sure looks like familiar medicine, doesn't it?

    Here is one crucial factor that differentiates Win/BB Android from UT: they were well-known and established platforms prior to pulling in Android compatibility. I would say that the "damage had been done" and retrospectively adding Android compatibility was too late, because the market-horse had already bolted. Thus, UT ‘debuting’ with Android-ability is notably different, perhaps significant, but… then why bother changing platforms at all? It’s the same conundrum those other vendors faced. However, it does grease the way for some must-have-reason why people would ditch Android for UT. If that conjecture holds true, its important. In that vein, Anbox etc., could be seen/treated in the context of platform migration and not for me-too compatibility. Let UT stand in its own light -- it’s a mindset.

    A major-win would be to gain influential patrons in target-markets. By patron I mean well-known figures who would champion the phone as a matter-of-course. To pay off, the phone has to be 'fit for purpose' within that market. I think getting the phone to that stage could be managed in parallel with the right patron -- it would give them lots to relate in their social media, keeping interest (and familiarity) going. (Negatively: the phone would have to be close-enough-to-ready else it might prove counter-productive.)

    That all said, patronage still didn’t help BB with Kim Kardashian using the Bold! My point here is that BB products weren’t fit for the mainstream market despite having an unofficial patron with the Midas-touch; privacy alone wasn’t enough to sell their products, even though that was her personal need/killer-feature. Note also BB chose not to engage her as a formal ambassador for their phones despite chatter at the time; this tells me that she’s not aligned with their target market. Well… yeah: mainstream doesn’t care for privacy, as BB experienced during their public keel-hauling years before.

    Google recently and quite ominously stated "(The) Fuchsia is not Linux". I find this deeply troubling on many levels, most of which aren’t directly related to this post. Conversely however, I believe there is a window of opportunity here. If Google has sense, it will make the transition between Fuchsia and Android seemless, but regardless, that still involves a decision-making process for vendors and consumers. That’s where I think an opportunity could lurk. If it transpires Fuchsia is akin to Fascista, then vendors will need alternatives. (I don’t know much about the backend of UT but presumably there’s a whole bag of trouble brewing here?)

    In that scenario, I guess we're talking about creating vendor alliances and so forth -- with funding -- and the sooner the better? There are independence questions here as well, obviously.

    Anyway, key points in summary:

    • Privacy doesn’t appear to be a killer-feature outside of niche-markets;
    • Privacy-related stories are are loved by news media!
    • Android compatibility wasn’t enough to save BB and Win-phone when retrospectively added;
    • Migrating from Android has to be driven by an overriding need;
    • Fuchsia might conversely drive need, especially with vendors;
    • Gaining patronage/champions in target markets would generate buzz;
    • Tailor the platform base install for target markets and not the (eventual...) mass-use scenario.


  • @umagellan
    I think the crucial part of what you wrote concerns Google, Fuchsia and OEMs... As things stand, UT needs bits of Android - I wish it didn't, as that makes us vulnerable.

    I don't know where Google are going with Fuchsia - but if they're closing things up [further], that has some serious implications (and not just for those of us who cherish Open Source).

    Google have never been very good about updating their versions of Android: my prediction is that a lot of phones will be rendered obsolete in the move to Fuchsia. Furthermore, if Fuchsia is Google adopting the business model of Apple: well that again means planned obsolescence, which I think is criminal.

    So what will OEMs do in response?

    • Well if Fuchsia is an option for them, they could go with it - the Micro$oft business model... presumably that would mean less customization, plus a license fee.

    • Or they could look for alternatives, such as Sailfish or Windowsphone, or UT or FirefoxOS.

    • Samsung has Tizen in reserve (& IIRC Huawei might have something too). They could go their own way: making a much more fractured marketplace.

    This is a risky move for Google: they have a lot to lose in a saturated smartphone market.

    But I think this is actually a real opportunity for UT... Obviously UT has continued to get better and better. It's a well-crafted, well thought-through OS. I think it's more than good enough for daily use. IF we can get it working well on hardware such as the Librem5 - that isn't reliant (as I understand it) on the Android bits - then that provides another option for OEMs to tap. One that retains all the freedom of Open Source for them to use as they wish.



  • @3arn0wl Thanks for that. Well, I'd say Google will continue present form which looks to me to be geared towards: centralisation/control and profiling. Dropping Linux and Java is probably a really good move from their legal side of things. I think Fuchsia will be relatively open/accessible at first whilst it matures before they turn the screws*. They have to get the buy-in to hook then exploit the need-dependency culture.

    I get it re the Librem approach, if that rolls well it strengthens the eco system and attracts other interested parties. Yes, I agree that is the right focus area because Android appears to have a finite future. I figure Google will construe obsolescence when they move on so Android isn't reanimated and used against them by competitors.

    *I think the open-source &etc approach is too strong now for Google to go against it; the old business models eventually fail and must adapt and evolve. I cannot see Google using an old business model. They are also an innovative company. I suspect they will find a way to have all their cakes initially until the market is won over. "Do no evil" etc. is relative to one's perception of what evil actually is. It seems it's been a moving target all along and I don't expect their behaviour to change.



  • @umagellan There's another tenet as well:
    Linux has always been about porting to existing hardware - often keeping hardware rendered obsolete going for much longer (something I'm particularly grateful for with my ancient laptop).

    As I understand it, the Halium Project might be useful in doing that with some of the Android phones laid to waste in the march of progress.



  • @3arn0wl Now that is very astute. You realise that UT could become the environmentalists champion in this regards? Another one of those hot media topics. There is mileage there if it's not approached from the "build it and they will come" mindset, which I find to be a false one outside of certain Hollywood films 🙂



  • @umagellan Well I personally long for the day when people wake up to the idiocy that is the consumer model we have at present: the amount of e-waste (and within that valuable materials) that we produce is simply awful. And actually, it is time that consumers hit these companies who indulge in planned obsolescence - the likes of Apple and Google - where it hurts: on their bottom
    line! 😉 But I'm being political - apologies.

    I do have to say though that the Halium project is a collection of like-minded groups coming together to find a fix for the Android problem.



  • (Pardon the formatting, i will try to update later on with links as well for those interested)

    I have been along time user of Ubuntu Touch and it fits my need despite still running Android in the background and a few other issues.

    I have now also been a long time user of Qubes OS, Xen virtualization for personal projects and cloud solutions, network appliances with Linux based OS, but also a lot of other diy projects based on Raspberry Pi within others so here are some recent thoughts:

    (note that i am ignoring hardware for a minute, completely ignorant about lib hybris and halium so i take a user self perspective approach 🙂

    1. Diy or iot in a phone, a phone presents all sensors and hardware for a security camera for example, therefore could Motion OS run in a container and access both cameras, etc... i won't suggest running alexa 😉

    2. More related to network and privacy, what about running Pi Hole in a container and block ads and dns spying... a Tor router... a file safe... a swiss army knife 😉

    3. Thinking about Qubes OS concepts, more control over all aspects of running containers could be made available, have proxys for all kind of traffic and offer further controls and visibility, ability to create alerts...

    4. Still on the Qubes OS concepts, template containers pre-setup could be made available like "advanced applications", some with a web remote interface or other...

    5. Taking a few step back, if virtualization is a path forward, imagine leaving things up to the user to decide what they run and/or where they supposedly "work", i mean, users who wants WhatsApp can run Anbox or a custom Android container, users who want Gimp, syncthing or other advanced application can run Ubuntu container(s)... maybe a SailFish container for another specific application...

    On those thoughts, happy new year 2019 wherever you are 🙂
    Peace



  • @tera I think #1 is a very good idea from an environmental marketing perspective and given cheap-enough and commonly available phone types could tap into the maker/diy market very effectively and drive other adoptions from there.



  • @UmaGellan , i believe there are other projects in that sense like the Party or Twitter Photo Booth, popular in Company conferences recently. Also Web Panels could be interesting.



  • @UmaGellan
    the main difference of UT compared to others is that it's open source. That's also its unique selling point. If you want something without a business model behind it, you choose open source.

    A business can have nice values and beautiful products, but a business is meant to be a money maker. To pay salaries and create income. Open Source communities are gathered around values and not for profit.

    Products engineered, maintained and created by communities of users, designers and makers are better products in many ways. Knowledge and experience of all stakeholders are inherently included. The open structure makes it flexible and rapidly adaptable to user-whishes and ever-changing cultures.

    If something is the story of UT, its open source character must be the story.


  • Infrastructure

    @UmaGellan your initial post sounds like a business plan.

    We are a community and not a company, so many of those strategic decisions will never be made in this way or by the time when they are necessary. Its also not what Torvalds did with Linux - he just put it there. He had no idea what it will become, and today its used by millions of devices worldwide (take Android and its for sure close to billions xD)

    We can steer roughly the course where the project might go, but we do not have the budget to campain for it. And we do not want to bind us to a few but potential sponsors, as they might become too influencial over time.

    Any business that thinks there is value in modding UT to a proper shape can do so, its open source. We will make slow but steady improvements, but we are not in the position to attack any corporate market, be it even a niche.



  • @Flohack exactly. Open Source projects don't have to sell. The collective energy of the community determines the direction of the project. As the energy is continuesly changing and the members of the community have different interests over time, the shared story of the open project is also fluïd and continously adapting to its community dynamics. Its important that the current project story is told so the community is keeping itself vital and productive.


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