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Ubuntu chief says converged platforms are the future

Sophie Curtis | March 1, 2013
The convergence of devices and software platforms is being driven by the shift towards cloud computing, which will ultimately become the engine room of all modern applications, according to Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth.

The convergence of devices and software platforms is being driven by the shift towards cloud computing, which will ultimately become the engine room of all modern applications, according to Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth.

Speaking at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, following the launch of a developer preview of Canonical's mobile-friendly version of Ubuntu last week, Shuttleworth said that one of the key challenges in the mobile space is the fragmentation of the underlying platforms.

"If you think of the vast array of devices -- not just those that we carry but all of the devices that we talk to, that talk to each other -- the software platforms on those are extraordinarily fragmented," he said.

"It's hard to know where they came from, it's hard to know how to update them, it's hard to know whether or not they are secure, it's hard to know where you stand, it's hard to be compliant or to audit that fragmented world."

However, Shuttleworth said that, thanks to Moore's Law, the increase in capability and decrease in cost of the silicon that powers these embedded environments will lead to greater convergence within the industry.

He said that the version of Ubuntu currently running on mobile phones is not an embedded operating system, or an RT version; it is the full Unix that also runs on servers and desktops in a broad range of security-sensitive environments, such as defence forces and national police forces.

"We think it will become true of all platforms that, in future, you won't have embedded Windows and Windows RT and Windows on a desktop and Windows on a server; you'll essentially just have Windows," he said.

"Apple and Google will take their platforms and converge them as well because, from a security point of view, being able to audit and manage a platform that is widely used on all of your devices is a vastly better proposition than having fragmentation across the device landscape."

This type of convergence is not just spanning the client world, but is also impacting modern app architecture. It is now common to have the GUI on a device and the engine of the application running in the cloud.

"Increasingly we're offloading the really rich and complex work into the cloud. So the question then comes, what kind of convergence can we create between this device, which is essentially an embedded device, and the cloud?" said Shuttleworth.

"As we slim down the platform to make it fly on the phone, we get greater density in the cloud, because we are essentially reducing the housekeeping that the operating system is doing. So as the platform gets leaner for mobile and embedded applications, it also gets leaner for the cloud."

 

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