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Ubuntu Tablets: Less Jarring Than Windows 8? 179

Posted by Soulskill
from the fewer-solid-color-rectangles dept.
Following up on yesterday's news that Ubuntu for Tablets has been announced, Mark Shuttleworth answered questions about the purpose of the new version of Canonical's OS and what its intended strengths will be. He made special note of how Canonical wants the transition between desktop-Ubuntu and mobile-Ubuntu to be smooth. "When you transition from the tablet to the desktop, things don't move around. Your indicators, things like network status and time, they don't jump around on screen, they stay in the same place. That's what's really different certainly between our approach to convergence and for example Windows 8, where when you're in the desktop mode, which looks like Windows 7, and suddenly you get the new tile-based interface, it's a stark transition that can be jarring for users. In our case, you can almost think of those as gentle phase changes. When you go from phone to tablet you're stretching the device in very obvious ways. People who've used iOS on both phones and tablets would expect that. What's nice about Ubuntu is the phase change to the PC experience up from the tablet really just introduces window management, and it also introduces things like menus and dialog boxes. You aren't moving things around in dramatic ways." He added that they expect the user experiences to converge in Ubuntu 14.04. Shuttleworth also addressed the fragmentation problem faced by Android. He says manufacturers and carriers don't want to fall into that trap again, and that they've been receptive to the idea of leaving the core of Ubuntu alone while tweaking their individual services instead.
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Ubuntu Tablets: Less Jarring Than Windows 8?

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  • by thelamecamel (561865) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @09:15AM (#42954739)

    Now I finally see what Shuttleworth's been meaning when he says the same applications run on all form factors - as a developer, you separate the logic from the UI, and write three UIs: one for phone, one for tablet, and one for desktop. Until now I thought "nice in concept, but what's the point?". But if your device itself suddenly switches from a phone or tablet to a desktop, then your app can keep running and switch UIs on the fly.

    What I really find neat is how tablet apps can become phone apps when docked on the side, for multitasking. This finally looks like a tablet that's not purely for consuming content.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @09:22AM (#42954775)

    provided that it isn't locked down, so we can disable all the snooping and logging canonical is doing these days...

    and provided that it can be used without a mandatory online account. you should be able to use one anonymously, and pay for apps with an anonymous prepaid card (like a gaming card, etc).

    and if open source (so we can see what they're doing. there's a lot of nosey apps out there) apps take off.

  • by chill (34294) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @10:15AM (#42955111) Journal

    You weren't paying attention. He isn't pushing Linux, he's pushing Ubuntu. The entirety of the system here is what he is selling.

    The point of the transition is that the tablet physically becomes the desktop when you simply add a keyboard and mouse, probably via Bluetooth. You don't drop your tablet when getting home or to the office, you just dock it. There is just one device. Well, two as you'll also have a phone.

    What this seems to hope to achieve is a seamless computing experience with no "put this down, boot the PC, do work, shut PC down, grab tablet and go".

    Sort of a "one device to rule them all". After watching the video, I was far more intrigued than I expected to be. I fully expect my reaction to be "what a stupid fucking idea", but instead found myself saying "damn, that actually looks nice. I want one."

  • Hardware Partner (Score:5, Interesting)

    by robmv (855035) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @10:28AM (#42955201)

    Shuttleworth also addressed the fragmentation problem faced by Android. He says manufacturers and carriers don't want to fall into that trap again, and that they've been receptive to the idea of leaving the core of Ubuntu alone while tweaking their individual services instead.

    And this shows how much Mr. Shuttleworth doesn't get the phone and tablets manufacturers and carriers and why there is no hardware partner and in my opinion they will not have one soon, like Ubuntu TV still doesn't have one. The reason Android took off is because Google was very careful to rebuild a lot of common Linux distribution modules by Apache licensed ones, for example the libc library. Manufactures and carriers want full control, they tolerate the GPL in the Linux kernel because they have no other viable option, but they don't like it (I am talking about them, I am not saying that I hate the GPL before people start implying that). Do you think Samsung will be happy to be forced to share their Android modifications that allow multiple applications (some vetted ones) on the same screen with all other OEMs?

    These words of Mr. Shuttleworth only gives me hints that they have no secret hardware partner

  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @11:07AM (#42955491)

    Separating UI from logic is a design paradigm that is well over 10 years old.

    Yeah, but in practice has anyone ever been able to get it to work across radically different platforms? I mean, you're talking about moving on the fly from the ARM architecture with low memory, weak video drivers, etc. of a tablet to a full-on desktop system--just by changing the UI? Sounds like a great idea, but implementing it would be a fucking nightmare. It's hard enough as it is just trying to support all the possible desktop configurations.

  • by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdot@nexusuk.oGAUSSrg minus math_god> on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @11:10AM (#42955525) Homepage

    Now I finally see what Shuttleworth's been meaning when he says the same applications run on all form factors - as a developer, you separate the logic from the UI, and write three UIs: one for phone, one for tablet, and one for desktop. Until now I thought "nice in concept, but what's the point?". But if your device itself suddenly switches from a phone or tablet to a desktop, then your app can keep running and switch UIs on the fly.

    What I really find neat is how tablet apps can become phone apps when docked on the side, for multitasking. This finally looks like a tablet that's not purely for consuming content.

    The thing is, I'm not convinced you actually want to have a separate UI... The Microsoft strategy of shoving a phone/tablet UI on a desktop or a desktop UI on a phone/tablet is clearly moronic, but I think there is some middle-ground where you can design a UI that works well for all the hardware.

    For one thing, there doesn't seem to be a clear distinction between phone/tablet/laptop/desktop - if we look at the hardware, all of these devices have varying screen sizes and they can all have varying combinations of input technologies - my phone has a keyboard, some laptops have touch screens, you can connect a keyboard and mouse to a tablet. What we have is more like a continuum:
      - phones tend to have small touch screens with no keyboard (but some phones are practically big enough to be verging on "small tablet" size, some phones have keyboards and trackballs, pretty much any android phone can have a bluetooth/usb mouse and keyboard attached to it). Many phones can also be plugged into external monitors.
      - tablets tend to be a bit bigger than phones (but there isn't a lot of difference between a small tablet and a large phone). They have touch screens, but again, you can connect keyboards and mice to them, plug them into external screens, etc.
      - laptops are often, again, a bit bigger than tablets. But again, there's a cross over here - a small laptop may have the same screen size as a large tablet. They have keyboards and trackpads and you can connect external keyboards, mice, screens to them. But many laptops also have touch screens - what's the difference between a touch screen laptop and a tablet with a keyboard and mouse?
      - desktops are usually treated the same as laptops. Again, often bigger screens (but not always), they have keyboards and mice but nothing stopping you having a touch screen.

    So where do you draw the line - at what point do you say "we're now on a tablet" and switch to the tablet interface? What's the justification for switching the *entire* UI to a tablet interface? Is it down to the input devices available? If I unplug the keyboard and mouse then am I suddenly incapable of using multple windows at once? Similarly, if I connect a keyboard and mouse to a tablet, do I suddenly expect to lose all the touch screen controls?

    As for screen sizes - certainly as the screen gets smaller I'm more likely to want applications full-screen; and conversely for large screens I'm more likely to want applications in windows. But this isn't necessarilly the case for all applications. For example, even on a tablet, I may want an instant messaging conversation to be displayed at the same time as surfing the web, so enforcing full-screen-everything seems like the wrong approach.

  • UI design (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MaWeiTao (908546) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @11:16AM (#42955565)

    The OS certainly looks nice, but how is it any different than mobile or tablet OS? I'm seeing a bit of sensationalism due to the mere fact that this OS didn't come from one of the big three. I was expecting a lot more to this claim than a mere jab at Windows 8's desktop mode. I agree, that was a massively botched example of UI design and an indication of compromise. But it's jarring for the first half an hour of use; it's not some sort of profound UI issue.

    The issue facing mobile and tablet UI is more one of consistency. It's functionality being uniform, apps following standards, and buttons having consistent functions. The back button should always mean back. Apple has generally done a good job and the OS translates pretty well between the iPhone and iPad. Regardless of what people are saying here, Windows Phone is one of the best out there and I haven't come across anyone yet who wasn't impressed. What it does make me wonder why Microsoft didn't implement that OS on the Surface RT.

    Android, while I like the OS, does have a lot of issues with unintuitive UI. Every environment functions a bit differently, like each was designed by it's own team with it's own UI philosophy and aesthetic. It's not a problem with anything that's used frequently, because users do internalize a lot of the variations. But I think it's still a problem to go from one screen that navigates via scrolls to another that relies on swipes. The custom variants from HTC, Samsung and others only make things worse. Unfortunately, I don't think it's something Google will ever be able to fix, user interface isn't their strong suit.

    From that perspective Ubuntu looks very promising. But it's crucial they prevent fragmentation, which seems difficult to pull off in the open source world. That would mean no first-party custom skins and no third-party redesigns. This is the interface everyone gets.

  • by BitZtream (692029) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @11:21AM (#42955615)

    I am not a Linux fan, however if Ubuntu was to make a phone that had the apps I want (Just because you have an app that 'does the same thing' doesn't mean I want to use it) to use, and was just a phone normally that when I got to work I could just plugin the monitor and power, bluetooth keyboard and mouse and it instantly switches the display to desktop mode and I continue working just as if I'd brought my laptop ...

    I'd considering use Linux for that. I'd prefer that they make OSX an ARM platform as well, so people made fat x86/ARM binaries and I could just use iOS on the phone display and OSX when in desktop mode, with apps just switching UIs between them just like the UI changes when the screen rotates.

    I want a laptop phone. I want my laptop inside my phone. I DO NOT want my phone to behave like a desktop. I DO NOT WANT my desktop to behave like a phone/tablet. I want one device that switches between the two so that as long as I have my phone, I always have my laptop.

    I would give up a fully decked Retina MacBook Pro in exchange for said device in a heartbeat, even if it ran on a slow ass ARM processor (compared to my i7 laptop) for the privilege of having only one device.

    You may not realize it yet, but a single converged device that does both IS the mass market. Thats where its going to go eventually. Its just a question of when we get to the point of having enough CPU power for low enough energy and size usage requirements that we get the performance we demand in our phones.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @12:07PM (#42956061)

    Yeah, but in practice has anyone ever been able to get it to work across radically different platforms?

    An entire segment has done it, in practice: all the network programmers.

    Question: What kind of machine does the client have? What OS does it run?
    Answer: I don't know. I can't ever know. Therefore, as a rigid matter of policy, I don't care.

Programmers do it bit by bit.

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