If You Are Buying Into Ubuntu Phone Claims, You’re Being Duped: Aaron Seigo

Canonical’s Ubuntu Phone has got a lot of people excited about it. I am also excited about Ubuntu Phone but having learned from Ubuntu TV and Ubuntu for Android hype last year, I am being a bit careful this time.

KDE’s Plasma Active team leader Aaron Seigo (who is bringing out a KDE-powered tablet soon – instead of using Google hardware, and probably Google code, to break Google’s hegemony) has raised some concerns around Ubuntu Phone.

He points at Canonical’s announcement, “When complete, the same Ubuntu code will deliver a mobile, tablet, desktop or TV experiences depending on the device it is installed on, or where it is docked.”

Seigo says that they have been doing this for ages, “Now, this kind of device spectrum thinking is something we’ve been promoting for a number of years as part of our vision for KDE Plasma. Long before Canonical decided this was something that made any sort of sense, before they started using Qt and QML, we were there working towards this.”

KDE Plasma Active running on a Nokia phone

That’s one of the reasons KDE is called the most advanced desktop platform which is ahead of its time and ready for the future. That’s where free software has a lead over non-free like Windows and Mac. That was a forward thinking approach.

Seigo is not convinced with Canonical’s claims:

… having looked at the code behind Unity, knowing about their “Ubuntu for Android” product which pops up a Unity desktop when a supported phone is docked, and having looked into Ubuntu Phone APIs (such as one can right now; the cards are still fairly close to the chest) …Canonical’s claim is a hollow one.

He has a lot of reasons:

We can start with the obvious clue: Unity currently does not use QML at all; Ubuntu Phone is pure QML. So, no, it is not the same code, it is not the sort of seamless cross-device technology bridge that they are purporting.

Wait a minute, did not Canonical say that “the same Ubuntu code will deliver a mobile, tablet, desktop or TV experiences”?

Seigo goes on to say:

…but the wording in the announcement is a bit cagey … Perhaps if we define “same Ubuntu code” to mean “Ubuntu the distribution with all versions of the UI installed” we can cover this with a great amount of fudge factor. Perhaps Unity will eventually be merged with Ubuntu Phone, and that’s what they mean by “when complete”.

Yet if we read it at face value .. that is not the message one gets, and that message does not reflect reality. This is not accidental.

Seigo adds that, “Making unfounded claims in this manner is, imho, ethically weak. But what is really disappointing here is that the Free software community is being told a fairy tale in hopes that they will believe it and as a result support Canonical .. under what amounts to false pretenses.

He warns:

If you’re a Free software developer, user and/or supporter and buying into these claims, I don’t know how else to put it other than this: you’re being duped.

Consider what supporting those who employ such tactics means for Free software.”

Richard Stallman talks about Ubuntu & Ubuntu Phone

Seigo concludes his post on a positive note:

I want to make it crystal clear that I think Ubuntu Phone a great thing to see; more Free software mobile efforts, particularly ones using Qt/QML, warm my insides like a good bowl of soup on a cold winter’s night. We’ve even been discussing how to harmonize QML APIs in future between Plasma and Ubuntu Phone … all the same, it is difficult to sit on one’s hands and say nothing when such communication techniques that are not healthy for the Free software movement are employed.

About Swapnil Bhartiya

A free software fund-a-mental-ist and Charles Bukowski fan, Swapnil also writes fiction and tries to find cracks in the paper armours of proprietary companies. Swapnil has been covering Linux and Free Software/Open Source since 2005.

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