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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.

    • What I really find neat is how tablet apps can become phone apps when docked on the side, for multitasking.

      Hmm, that _is_ a cunning piece of design. A bit like Metro's app docking but actually useful and less sucky.

      • by bondsbw (888959)

        When Microsoft announced Windows 8, I thought that was the entire point of the snap view. Every "Metro" app would be able to run as a tablet app or a Windows Phone 8 app, and snap view would run the phone mode on the tablet.

        Then I was disappointed.

        Microsoft keeps hinting that a near future version of Windows Phone will have apps that can be cross-compiled as tablet apps, but I'll believe it when I see it. For now, Ubuntu has taken the lead in this regard.

      • by Curate (783077)
        Hmm, that _is_ a cunning piece of design. A bit like Metro's app docking but actually useful and less sucky.

        Yes it's a cunning design. But don't fall for all of Shuttleworth's marketing hype, even if he does phrase it very eloquently. He is not only a cunning designer, but a cunning linguist too.

    • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @09:54AM (#42954963) Journal

      Separating UI from logic is a design paradigm that is well over 10 years old. It's generally a good idea, not just for different form factors like this, but for cross platform apps where you may not have a good UI library across all target platforms.

      • 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 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.

          • In a way...

            From what I know, which may not be enough, the network programmers succeed at this because they use virtual machines that have a standardized "machine." What I am also pretty sure of (though not positive) is that - other than Windows Terminal Servers and Citrix-type servers - most of those applications running on servers are, well, server applications. They have no user interface. The user interface part of the application runs on another machine or in a browser somewhere else. In many ways, it i

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          Have you looked at phones and tablets lately? Quad core processors, gigabytes of RAM, fast flash memory storage and high resolution screens backed by powerful GPUs are the norm.

      • Try well over 30 years old. MVC came out in the 70s.

        • by ByOhTek (1181381)

          well over 30 years old is a subset of well over 10 years old...

          I only started working on this stuff 15 years ago. The post I was responding to was acting as if it was something new, which it is not.

    • certainly it is a beginning, if the graphical tool kits can be expanded so they can present the interface in a manner which reflects the mode of the tablet. Even the user interface could be changed easily enough as it is many of us have at least a couple of options for desktop environments that are only a login away.

      I like the idea of an ubuntu tablet since it almost certainly means it can be more. It almost certainly will be capable of running android maybe similar to running virtualbox in seamless mode. I

    • by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdot@NOspam.nexusuk.org> 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.

      • I, for one, welcome our new XFCE overlords, no wait, in Soviet Ubuntu ...

        Damn, I think that coffee was caffiene free.

      • by Jerslan (1088525)

        I'm not convinced you actually want to have a separate UI... ... I think there is some middle-ground where you can design a UI that works well for all the hardware.

        Sure, for some types of apps you would want to go this route. Though Android discovered the hard way that people with tablets often don't just want that tablet to be cluttered with enlarged phone apps (ie: scaled up). MVC allows you to have separate UI's so that you can take advantage of larger screen spaces and the extra UI features they enable, while only having one set of program logic. This is how iOS Universal Apps work. You have one set of UI's for iPad and another for iPhone/iPod-Touch. The iPad has

        • A well made Android app is able to adapt it's UI for different size / density screens too, or have completely different UI layouts for different devices. The more popular apps do this very well and it's not hard to design for. Unfortunately a lot of Android developers still design primarily for phones and leave tablet owners with the same layout. It's getting better though.

          I'm mainly an Android user and developer but love the way Ubuntu for tablets manages this side by side app stuff. Same with Surface - it

    • by Junta (36770)
      Problem is that it is pure concept and mock up for now. Without an actual implementation, it's hard to judge how 'seamless' it truly ends up being and then also how hard is it for a developer to use correctly. There are incredible mockups from companies on a daily basis that never get realized. It's one idea to have a good idea on how something should work, it's another to actually make that happen. Another issue is that in the mobile arena in particular, app persistence is actually rare compared to des
      • I have got a tablet and am REALLY in the market for one that has TRUE multi-tasking and DOES keep state and not have to constantly swap out apps to save memory.

        Mind you, I am NOT that hopeful any of the tablet makers in business can supply. Take something as simple as storage space. micr-sd cards are tiny AND at the expense of the customer. A slot makes your device more capable at the cost of a few dollars at most. Yet how many devices have say a dual slot capacity? Why not a quad slot? Why not an optional

        • by exomondo (1725132)

          Apple ripped open the MP3 player market and did what Blizzard did with WoW to the market. It showed that ALL the tiny players could have been tech giants, no THE biggest company in the WORLD for a long time... if only they had dared to simply sell to people devices that could hold a bit of music.

          But Apple weren't the first, they didn't have the most storage and they didn't have the most features...they dared to strip away the commonplace features and focus on design and user experience.

  • 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 thelamecamel (561865) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @09:50AM (#42954933)

      Thankfully the snooping is going to remain optional (although still opt-out rather than opt-in). I've still got it turned off on my desktop, but reading documents like this [ubuntu.com] (specifically the Data and metrics passed to the Smart Scopes service section) are a little reassuring, in that you can see that the developers are thinking about how to take only the data they need and are trying to protect it. I particularly like their (far-off) plans for sending location information: they won't send your exact co-ordinates like Google or Apple does - they'll round them off to maybe a 10km square because that level of location accuracy is probably not needed for the search. There's also a friendlier summary of the spec [omgubuntu.co.uk] available.

      That said, while this kind of fuck up [launchpad.net] is still happening, I'm going to keep online search off, despite being tempted by functionality like its iView (Aussie Hulu) support.

      I too hope that you don't need an Ubuntu One account to use the tablet...

    • 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).

      Experience suggests that mobile devices tend to be subjected to wipes and replacements more often than other device types, and with the general shift towards cloudiness and cloudification, that seems unlikely to change. On top of this, we're seeing the death of physical media, with mobile devices rarely having anything th

    • This is no longer feasible. Since they did it once, by default, and without graceful means to turn it off or putting clear labels on it, there is *nothing* that will stop them from doing it again or doing similar acts. And it's clear from his own statements about the problem that Mark Shuttleworth, as the leader of Ubuntu, does not understand what the problem is, so it's clear that security is an afterthought for him, not a critical part of what Ubuntu does.

      It's like catching your wife in bed with a chicken

  • Ok people. Please but any Unity hate posts in this thread. Thank you.

    • by div_2n (525075)

      I hated Unity at first. It was a buggy and foreign experience that made my desktop much less usable than I was used to on previous Linux experiences. Then many of the the most glaring bugs got worked out and I found out why alt+tab was so broken for multiple instances of the same app -- for same-app window switching, use alt+` instead.

      There's still bugs, but they're slowly ironing it out. And about that foreign experience -- I have some older versions on another machine I rarely use. Recently, I fired that

      • The alt-` thing is better than the standard Windows alt-tab behaviour... the alt-tab behaviour is alas, different to Windows, which is why it "feels wrong" to those of us who have laboured there a long time.

        But yes, the main reason people hate on it, as far as I can make out, is that it's different.

        They moaned soooo much about it when the close / minimize buttons were moved to the top left. But you think about it - it's the most efficient placement. What's the first thing you want to do when you close an ap

        • by div_2n (525075)

          Yes, the top-right window control feels clumsy and inefficient when I do have to use Windows for work purposes.

        • Idea for UI designers, two more common functionality elements Mute and Always on Top. Should be up there with minimize, max, and close.
    • by Knuckles (8964)

      I'm really surprised, this story has by far the smallest ratio of irrational Ubuntu hate posts of any Ubuntu story in the past year. This must mean that Shuttleworth is onto something - and in fact I do find it difficult to find major flaws with the stuff he said in TFA. I found the whole idea appealing from the start, and if this plan works out, I'll be the first in line to get an Ubuntu TV, phone, tablet, laptop, and/or whatever I have to buy to finally get seamless free software-based unification for my

  • Certainly good to add more variety. For me a tablet is like a monitor. It just has to work and not do more what it is asked for, like user tracking or information collecting or content change or adaptation. What would be nice is to have an emulator application on a desktop which looks and behaves from the outside like a tablet. In a time, when news outlets or search engines more and more also adapt their pages to the medium (never mind the look and feel, the disturbing part is also change of content), it wo
  • by Errol backfiring (1280012) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @09:52AM (#42954949) Journal

    Reading the Ubuntu site, I only see phone and tablet apps, no desktop programs. While a video player often looks "special" on a desktop (and I hate that, video players already eat enough resources when playing videos), a word processor must not. Or a CAD program. Or a spreadsheet. My e-mail client on my phone looks totally different than on my desktop and I want to keep it that way. I much rather configure my phone, tablet and desktop separately than having one config to overrule them all and in infeasibility bind them.

    This is the opposite of Ubuntu for Android, where you get a desktop if you plug desktop hardware (through a docking device) into your phone. If that desktop is a real destop (XFCE, LXDE or whatever, not Unity), that would by far more practical.

  • by mutube (981006) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @09:58AM (#42954985) Homepage

    I'd love a good modern tiling WM for desktop/mobile/phone - with configurable numbers of panes/arrangements on different devices (i.e. a single one on a phone, plug in an external monitor and get a split horizontal with sub-panes on the right.)

    Unfortunately Unity (and Ubuntu) ain't it.

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      I've been thinking about this. In my mind's eye, Awesome might be well configured for something like that, simply because it's written in Lua and pretty adaptable for things like eg. widgets. But I don't know the language or the wm well enough to know the answer to whether it would be adaptable for a touchscreen device without much of a headache: I'm guessing not.

      Personally, things like this new Ubuntu framework only have limited applicability unless I can get my choice of window manager/DE once we switch o

  • 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 robmv (855035)

      and by the way if some OEMs don't want to "fall again" on the Android "fragmentation trap" it is more easy for them to stop modifying base Android that switch to Ubuntu, so this sounds like a marketing lie to me

    • by pmontra (738736)
      Unity is copyrighted by Canonical so they can multiple license it. It is GPL3 by default but anything else for anybody they make a deal with.
      This means they could license their code to Samsung so that Samsung can make all the changes it wants without sharing them back to the world. Probably Canonical will ask some money for the privilege.
      • by robmv (855035)

        And Unity is only a module of an Ubuntu installation, there are many dependencies that aren't copyrighted by Canonical

    • by Teckla (630646)

      ...they tolerate the GPL in the Linux kernel because they have no other viable option...

      Just curious (really curious, not trolling) -- why is something like FreeBSD not considered a viable option?

      • by robmv (855035)

        Nobody has given them a platform of the size of Android using a BSD kernel, no that the FreeBSD kernel is unable to do that, but Google is a Linux shop. If four years ago someone did that, it should have worked, today after the success of Android, OEMs need more than a simple switch to a BSD kernel. Ubuntu is offering them less "freedom" (notice the quote, freedom to the OEMs) to do what they want with the code without sharing than Android

  • This time Mark is picking on the operating system with the most jarring experience ever found in operating systems. Well, maybe not, the Windows 3.x days are long behind me, but I do remember how bad that could get....

  • Mark Shuttleworth said in the article: "What's nice about Ubuntu is the phase change to the PC experience up from the tablet really just introduces window management." Does this mean that Ubuntu on tablets will run all maximized all the time, even when a tablet is docked to a keyboard? That hurts my use case, which involves doing a little Python coding during the commute. I currently have a 10" laptop, and my setup in IDLE puts a source code editor window down one half of the screen and a second source code
  • UI design (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MaWeiTao (908546)

    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 o

  • If it has a "start" button and some semblance of a menu, it already wins
  • But it sounds like you'll need cloud storage forward to work. That's something I'm not very crazy about. And then there's the privacy issues that have been plaguing Ubuntu lately. It seems to be driving a lot of Linux users away, including me. The integration strategy sounds really cool.
  • I mentally and emotionally left ubuntu behind when this 'train wreck' started, and have been churning along with Mint and Debian (for servers) getting most of my love.

    This clarifies what the intent is for Ubuntu. More importantly to me, it resonates in a way that win8 and 'just like tablets and the new windows' never did -- this hints at a unix / X11 / 'network is the computer' mindset, where the UI and the data/computation are decoupled in ways that add flexibility, rather than straitjacketing power users

  • ...to get one and replace Unity with KDE :)

  • 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.

    Um. That's because you made the Ubuntu Desktop look like a tablet interface, so of course there's less difference - duh.

  • For three days, there's been flacking for Canonical's attempt, yet again, to commercialize Linux on end user devices. Canonical previously claimed their product was going to ship on the EeePC (it never reached retail channels), and on Dell (where it was more expensive than Windows). Worse, Canonical ships a Linux preloaded with ad-supported crapware.

    Linux tablets are available from China [alibaba.com]. Some are good, some are awful, most are cheap.

  • I find Unity jarring. I gave it an honest go on three different Ubuntu releases, then finally couldn't stand it anymore, switching first to Gnome 2 fallback mode, then to Gnome 3 (very briefly), then ultimately dumping Ubuntu entirely and reverting to Gnome 2 on Debian Squeeze. So to me, Mark is saying Ubuntu on the tablet wouldn't be any MORE jarring than it already is on the desktop. I'm fairly certain I'll pick up negative karma for sharing that opinion, but it is honestly my opinion.

    Ultimately it doe
  • It's also better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick!
  • I understand that Desktop Ubuntu is possible for the HP Touchpad, but is there any word on Ubuntu for Tablets?

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