The Ubuntu Phone

Developers interested in the Ubuntu Phone are being ‘duped’ by Canonical, a leading KDE developer has said.

In a rant on Google+, KDE Plasma Active developer Aaron Seigo takes Canonical to task over a statement made in the press release for the Ubuntu Phone downloads, in which they say:

“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.”

This Segio argues, is a ‘hollow claim’ by Canonical. In a post to his 1000+ followers he writes:

“Unity currently does not use QML at all [and] 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,” 

Going on to call the wording of the announcement ‘a bit cagey’, Seigo tries to read between the lines of what he thinks Canonical mean:

‘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”.’

But he doesn’t buy his own reasoning, saying that the message being sent out by Canonical – the one he takes issue with – is both clear and ‘not accidental’:

‘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 (sic).’

‘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.’


Developers are entirely right to be dubious of claims, particularly when it’s hard to to weight those claims against “bricks and mortar” reality (in this case, code).

But it’s a fine line between being realistic and being flat-out cynical.

We know that Canonical are aiming for a ‘convergent’ future with Unity, and we know that this will encompass phones, TVs, tablets and the good ol’ fashioned desktop.

Quite how it will do this is a bit less clear because of the way Canonical development happens: things are only made available to the wider world when in a usable, worthwhile state.

But, even in light of this, Canonical have yet to give us a reason to doubt sincerity of aim. Picking apart a possible inference from one phrase of one paragraph in one press release is a little hasty.

‘Warms My Insides’

Debates about the semantics of ‘same code’ aside, Seigo is a fan of the Ubuntu Phone, as he says:

“…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 …”

And this isn’t won’t be a surprise to those who know of him.

Aaron Seigo is a principle driving force behind the KDE Plasma Active environment which, much like Unity aims to, seeks to work across a variety of different devices.

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