Electric Froth

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FirefoxOS and Ubuntu Phone

by Joel Kleier on 2014-10-31


Mobile devices are quickly taking over the world. We communicate to each other in all sorts of ways that once were limited to desktop computers and audio-only point-to-point connections. We broadcast, share, and hold conversations — between just two people up to thousands, or millions of people. Maybe more. We are living in an era where anyone (with an internet connection) can potentially communicate to the entire human population, all at once, for, basically, free. From a device we carry in our pockets.

And I am very happy with all the big players in mobile, pushing this sort of tech to heights that are truley amazing.

To get more out of it, though, we need truly free and open alternatives so that these devices can push boundaries in ways the current options cannot.

This is where FirefoxOS and Ubuntu Phone come into play. These operating systems may never be "bigger" than Android or iOS in terms of market penetration, but what they represent, and what they allow people to do is none-the-less important.

FirefoxOS is pushing into low-end markets and trying to make a phone that can get people onto a web-enabled platform in the same price range as their classic phones. It’s very open, and promotes an open culture — more than that, it promotes a web culture. At the same time, it’s pushing technical boundaries for browsers by implementing and helping to standardize API’s for accessing all sorts of native device features.

Ubuntu Phone, on the other hand, is trying to bring a fully open source OS into the mobile marketplace, but doesn’t seem to be focusing on the low-end market or the web, like FirefoxOS.

Instead, Canonical seems to view the mobile space as having the same problems as the desktop space — no good, free libre open source operating systems with completely open development processes. AND they see a future where mobile devices start converging into desktop-level computers — having a different UI’s depending on how they’re being used. IE a touch based UI for mobile use, and a desktop UI for when it’s docked and paired to monitors, keyboards, and mice.

The idea of this convergence may not be Canonicals highest priority with the failure of the Edge in 2013, but idea is still there. I can’t wait until it becomes reality.

It may not happen right away, it probably won’t replace desktops and laptops completely, it may not be very good when it first starts to really happen, and, heck, it may fail once or twice. But it will happen. The concept of carrying around a fully functional computer in our pockets already exists — the next step is to make that computer more connectable and more useable for creative tasks.

The future is awesome, and I think FirefoxOS and Ubuntu will play a huge role in the future, whether or not they have large marketshare.