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Shuttleworth: Apple will converge Mac and iPhone

Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth

By Darien Graham-Smith

Posted on 11 Oct 2013 at 06:57

Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth claims Apple will follow Ubuntu's lead and converge the iPhone and MacBook product lines.

Speaking to PC Pro to mark the launch of Ubuntu 13.10, Shuttleworth said that the failed Ubuntu Edge smartphone - an attempt to bridge mobile and desktop computing devices - had set an example that others will follow.

"I was very, very disappointed that we weren’t able to turn it [Ubuntu Edge] into reality," said Shuttleworth of the Ubuntu Edge project, which was scrapped after falling a long way short of its crowdfunding target. "But I was blown away by the level of support that we did achieve."

Apple was sending what we think is a very clear signal that it will converge the iPhone and the MacBook Air

"We’ve seen a very interested ripple go through the industry, and an uptick in interest in convergence," Shuttleworth added. "People are saying yes, mobile processors are catching up with the desktop. When Apple announced the iPhone 5s, it called the processor 'desktop-class', and I don’t think that was an accident – it was sending what we think is a very clear signal that it will converge the iPhone and the MacBook Air.

"There’s no point talking about the desktop performance of your CPU unless you plan to make a desktop device with that CPU."

Ubuntu is itself attempting to merge the different strands of its operating system - desktop, tablet, phone and television - into one codebase. He claimed that converged OS could arrive as early as next year, "in 14.10 or 15.04", and added that: "we believe we’ll be able to deliver that before Microsoft is fully able to converge Windows on mobile and PC."

New in Ubuntu 13.10

The forthcoming Ubuntu 13.10 release goes live on 17 October. For desktop users, new features include "Smart Scopes" that make it possible to search online resources directly from the Dash, as well as updates to the graphics subsystem aimed at improving performance.

The Server edition of the software, meanwhile, aims to make cloud computing more accessible than ever, and accelerate the provisioning of virtual machines.

"We’ve put a tremendous amount of work into the ability to express almost pictorially the infrastructure you want to create," explained Shuttleworth. "A lot of our work in the last couple of years has gone into making it possible to spin up very complex workloads in the cloud as fast as you can get the underlying machines."

"This release also brings two really big capabilities to the orchestration tool, Juju. One is that it lets you subdivide virtual machines, so that you can get even more dense configurations.

"The other is that it works now in the Microsoft cloud as well. Azure looks set to emerge as the main competition to Amazon on public cloud, with OpenStack being the preferred platform for private cloud applications - and Juju works across all three of those environments."

You can read the full interview with Mark Shuttleworth in issue 231 of PC Pro, on sale 14 November

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User comments

As long as all the software is ported over I can't help feeling it would be a good idea to have these processors in desktops. I still don't understand why a desktop machine takes 5 seconds to open Outlook yet my phone opens Mail instantly. Lack of SSD is one thing but there's more to it than that. Something isn't right with the whole X86 architecture. My phone never pauses to have a think yet my PC does quite frequently

By TimoGunt on 11 Oct 2013

WIndows 8

Windows 8 has demonstrated fairly clearly that an OS for multiple form factors isn't a good idea!

By valeofyork on 11 Oct 2013

@TimoGunt

The ARM processors are much too slow, in their current form, and don't scale well enough to replace current desktop/laptop technologies.

As to Outlook taking 5 seconds to load, don't forget, it is doing a lot more than the simple mail program on a smartphone or tablet. You are comparing a fully featured application against a lightweight app that doesn't support most of the features.

A bit like asking why a 250cc scooter is quicker off the line than a family car, 4 up with the boot full of luggage...

If you tried to load the "mail app" from a smartphone on a desktop, it would be loaded before you had finished clicking, but you would be moaning about the lack of functionality.

And my Galaxy SIII is always pausing to think. If I am in Mail, pressing the home button has up to a 3 second pause, before the home screen is displayed. My iPhone also has similar pauses from time to time.

Likewise, starting Mail takes a couple of seconds, the first time, switching back to it afterwards can be pretty instant, that said, starting Outlook takes a few seconds, but switching back to it is instant. I also have my complete Email history instantly available in Outlook, the Mail app only keeps a couple of weeks hanging around, and searching for a 3 year old email takes a while.

Phones and tablets are aimed at doing, mainly, lightweight tasks relatively quickly with little power use.

A traditional laptop/desktop is aimed at doing a lot more heavy lifting and giving quick answers.

I would suspect, that if you tried to load Outlook (desktop version, not the Phone App) on an ARM device it would take several times longer to load than on a modern desktop machine.

You have to ask yourself, do you want to sacrifice functionality for simplicity? If you do that on an x86 machine, you'll also see vast improvements in loading speed.

Just look at IE10 on Windows 8, in Modern UE mode on an Atom based tablet, that opens quicker than Chrome on an ARM machine.

By big_D on 11 Oct 2013

@Big_D

I don't think ARM cpu's are slower at all. They provide far more "bang for buck", but when used to emulated x86 will run slower (emulation always is).
Software compiled for RISC runs much faster on ARM than on the old x86 architecture.

I had a Acorn Archimedes decades ago that was a desktop PC and far faster than any IBM PC at the time.

Comparing netbooks and tablets that run on a small battery to PC's that use a 400W PSU is hardly a level playing field.
Put an intel i5 chip in your phone and try and do anything in less than a week on the power consumption an ARM chip thrives on.

Until we see a dedicated ARM Desktop OS that isn't cross compiled or ported, you won't see what ARM is capable of.

Sadly Microsoft did about as good a job with Surface as they did with HALO 2 for Vista.

By cheysuli on 11 Oct 2013

What about Android?

This convergence will be very difficult for Apple because they have a successful legacy to support on both sides.

It would be slightly easier for Microsoft because they could change direction on smartphones and hardly anyone would notice.

But it would be easiest of all for Android if only Google would concentrate on that and give up on Chrome-OS (at least as a standalone product). It would take very little work to push Android upward first to laptop and convertible form factors and then to fully-fledged desktop machines.

Note also that Android already runs on both ARM and x86, and I'm guessing if Apple goes the convergence route they will be sensible enough to make the converged platform run on both as well.

By JohnAHind on 11 Oct 2013

I will take this all with a pinch of salt until a full development environment can be run on a tablet with native code compilation and test harnesses. Without privileged access to the file-system, the ability to control arbitrary peripherals and full access to the network stack, mobile operating systems will always have limited capabilities compared to desktops.

Presumably Ubuntu is aiming for that, but Apple will be very reluctant to relinquish the App Store model where apps are curated and fraudulent software extremely difficult to distribute, not to mention the open-ended revenue stream that comes from being the gatekeeper to the iOS platform. Developers are free to buy Macs, but software for the mobile side will remain cross-compiled.

By c6ten on 11 Oct 2013

I meant normal access to the file-system rather than 'privileged'. On iOS an App has limited access to the file-system.

By c6ten on 11 Oct 2013

@cheysuli

My Atom based Windows tablet is the same speed or faster than the ARM tablets running at the same speed and it offers the same battery life and is lighter than an iPad... And that with the "legacy" of x86 and Windows.

For example, it is faster than an iPad 4 at Sunspider and twice as fast as an iPad 3 and 20% faster than an iPhone 5.

Given that the new generation of Atom tablets offer the same battery life, but double the performance of mine, I feel ARM has a long way to go, before it will be on a level playing field.

By big_D on 11 Oct 2013

@big_D

You can't really make the comparisons you are making and expect a sensible answer unless you know for certain that the code you are running is native rather than some mix of emulators and native.

From benchmarks running test programs all in native mode and attached to hardware of equivalent capability Arm is well able to compete with Atom.

By qpw3141 on 11 Oct 2013

It's probably inevitable...

In a sense this is the crux of the whole "The PC is dead.." debate. Its not about Not the convergence of OSX\iOS (or Windows\WP 8.1, or Chrome \ Android) specifically, but the re-emergence of "Data" as the users' primary concern.

With this change of focus comes a corresponding loss of focus on the platforms (hardware & software) which enable them to use those data..

Another factor becoming more relevant is an emphasis on using a platform appropriate to whatever task one is essaying. It has become pretty obvious is that for many, indeed most people at home a relatively "simple" set of capabilities is required.

At work the picture is vastly more complex because the range of user requirements is much more diverse. It's this complexity which underlies my belief that although the PC is dead it's a case of "Long Live the PC!".

For me the term "PC" is starting to describe a form-factor, rather than its historical use to label both a device, and an ecosystem.
So if\when various "PC" Operating Systems merge with\are replaced by their "mobile" siblings, many people will still need a PC-type device, with a keyboard and large display(s).
Technology will rapidly update this set-up. Kinect-esque devices present an opportunity to use a projected "key field" as keyboard, and gestures are likely to replace mice even sooner.
None of this will happen overnight. PC sales are slow because in business most of the (old-style) PCs in use are adequate and will be so for a while longer. Also, software & O\S development is yet fully to catch-up with hardware, which is where this strain of thought started.....

By wittgenfrog on 11 Oct 2013

It's not too much of a stretch ...

... to imagine, a few yews on, a tablet with 500GB and the processing power of a current high end PC that can be use stand alone, with a travelling keyboard or with a large monitor and 'proper' keyboard, at home.

I think Intel's main focus, now, is to make low power consumption chips more powerful and high power chip use less energy rather than making the high power chips ever more powerful (they still do, of course, it's just no longer their main focus).

I suspect that the most likely outcome is that phones/tablets/PC's will merge, but with really flexible hookups available for those who need them.

By qpw3141 on 11 Oct 2013

Not strictly true big_d. I decided to look on my iphone. It has 5 email accounts including exchange. I went to my hotmail account and after a lot of scrolling I got to the bottom and I had emails from two years ago. I still firmly believe that the mail app serves me well and opens instantly on my 4s. Not even a half second stutter yet my Quad core work pc hangs for seconds sometimes opening Outlook. Yes Outlook is more functional but it only has two accounts and should perform as good as an iphone. It doesn't. I still maintain that the X86 processor is fundamentally flawed

By TimoGunt on 11 Oct 2013

On the iPhone you just set the account to no limit on the mail days to sync and it keeps the full history. It never takes me three seconds to get back to the home screen and I would chuck the phone if it did. Also a cold boot of mail is under a second. It's all apps too. Boot up an iPhone, log in and immediately open the browser. In the same time a PC would still be loading the desktop. I just don't get the lack of speed of these huge processors. They should be able to do the common things at lightening speed. Macs have similar pauses because of X86

By TimoGunt on 11 Oct 2013

Searching

Timo, try searching for key words in your emai, in all folders. M
With my Galaxy, I can only search one folder at a time.

Yes, you can set it to store more emails, but with hundreds of thousands of emails, it quickly starts to clog up. I think on my old iPhone, Mail was the app that used the most memory - over 8GB.

In Outlook, I can view my mail, calendar and tasks all at the same time, on a phone, you need three different apps and can't view them all at the same time.

Phone apps are designed to be small, light weight and single task. This is why they seem to be fast.

ARM has a lot of potential, but on its current form it can barely give the entry level chips a run for their money.

RISC showed a lot of potential when it came onto the scene, but it kicked Intel in the butt and they improved their game, to the point where there wash' any benefit of using RISC over x86 in servers or desktops.

Then AMD did the same and then ARM showed the weakness of the Intel designs - they were too power hungry to be used in mobile devices and ARM stole a lead on Intel in that market.

Intel based Android tablets and smartphones have been able to hold their own against ARM and the new Baytrail pushed the performance envelope even further, without upping power consumption.

I like ARM, it is a lovely, simple design (well, relatively) and we need competition in the market, but I don't see the current designs being that much of a danger for desktop and server use.

For lightweight desktop use (i.e. web browsing and 'app' based email, calendar etc. A low end device with ARM technology are cheap and fast enough, but for high end desktop work, they just don't have the power.

The same goes for the ARM servers. For low processing power servers, such as file and print work, they are fast enough and bring huge power saving potential. For huge virtualisation platforms or high end processing servers, they aren't in the same game.

I do hope that ARM have something up their sleeves and can give Intel a run for their money, even if it is just in low end, power efficient devices. This is where Intel needed their kick in the rear to get them out of their complacency.

RISC did it in the 90s, AMD did it with more efficient and faster processors in the early and mid 2000s, leading Intel to retaliate with the Pentium M and leading them into adapting that for their Core chips.

Now ARM is doing the same in low power, high efficiency designs. They don't offer the raw processing power, but they do provide incredible power per Watt, compared to older Intel mobile designs.

And it looks like Intel have sat up and taken notice with their Z series Clovertrail chips and the new Baytrail chips. The question is, can ARM and its implementers respond and keep Intel on their toes by springing ahead again.

This is something that IBM, Motorola, DEC, PA-RISC, AMD and other have failed to do in the past. They force Intel to up their game, but when Intel responds, the others couldn't keep up.

Maybe ARM is in a better position to keep up with Intel.

By big_D on 12 Oct 2013

Lack of Speed

Again, you need to look at what different OSes are doing.

Mobile OSes are optimised to be as small as possible and just do what is necessary. There is very little legacy support in their.

Desktop OSes are much bigger and have to do a lot more and they provide much more functionality.

It is like saying 'my 100HP motorbike runs rings around a juggernaut', yes, it does, but it isn't trying to lug 20 tonnes of load behind it.

Microsoft is getting there. My Windows 8 tablet isn't much slower to boot and log on as my Galaxy S3 and it runs rings around my more powerful Windows 7 desktop in boot times.

By big_D on 12 Oct 2013

@big_D

Saying ARM is not as powerful as Intel at the top end is like IBM saying micro processors are not as powerful as our bit-slice minicomputer chips in the 1980s. This is how phase changes happen in the computer industry: a new lower cost, lower power architecture finds a niche underneath the current incumbent. Yes it needs new simpler incompatible software at first, but once it gets a foothold it steadily expands upward until it takes over completely.

The big advantage ARM offers over Intel is not necessarily a permanent lead in power/performance ratio. It is also the ability to design a chip specifically for each device, to integrate at the chip rather than the circuit board level. Yes, Intel can make SoC designs, but they'll be Intel designs. To innovate and differentiate, companies making consumer devices need to be able to make their own SoC designs, ultimately on a per-product basis.

By JohnAHind on 12 Oct 2013

I think I misread Shuttleworth, I thought he was talking about his software platform, rather than Apple's chip business. Where Intel has the advantage is in process technology, a two year lead according to Ars Technica. Given that Apple will find it difficult to justify merging their software platforms, it doesn't seem that there is any major reason for them to merge their hardware platforms. I think Shuttleworth's mission was accomplished though, we're still arguing about it...

By c6ten on 12 Oct 2013

@c6ten

The problem is, they are only just about on the same playing field at the low end.

2 years ago, it was all ARM on smartphones and tablets and Intel was left reeling.

Now Intel has the first generation SoCs in many phones and tablets and they are holding their own performance and battery life wise against their ARM counterparts and the just released Baytrail should be up to twice as fast.

Even traditional ARM customers, like Samsung, which make their own Exynos ARM chips is using Atom in some of its Android tablets. Huawei, Lenovo and Motorola have been using Atom in some of their Android smartphones and performance is on a par with similarly spec'ed ARM phones.

When Atom chips running at the same speed as Core parts have a fraction of the performance, ARM have a long way to go.

I don't think that they can't do it, I just think they have a long road ahead of them and it won't happen soon. Just look at the performance difference between ARM and Celeron based Chomebooks, let alone a fully specified Chromebook, like the Pixel.

By big_D on 13 Oct 2013

@c6ten

Actually I think Shuttleworth WAS talking about the OS software - this thread got a bit derailed onto Intel vs. ARM.

But only Microsoft seem to have trouble making multi-processor software. Android already runs on both X86 and ARM and Apple previously managed to port from PowerPC to Intel. If they merge the two OS I would guess they'd follow Google this time and make the converged OS run on both Intel and ARM.

By JohnAHind on 13 Oct 2013

@John

Microsoft were multi processor for a long time. Their products used to run on 8080/Z80, 6502/6809, then x86 and Motorola 68000.

They decided to major on x86, but they had versions of Windows for PowerPC, Alpha and MIPS, just nobody wanted them, because you could only get MS Office for them, most third party software developers never went outside of x86.

By big_D on 14 Oct 2013

@big_D

Sure, but Microsoft's recent track record (RT) is not encouraging. Ironically they have the solution to the App compatibility problem in .NET but they lack the conviction to even port their own flagship Office software to the .NET runtime. It is hardly surprising they have difficulty persuading third party developers!

By JohnAHind on 14 Oct 2013

@John

They are/have ported it to WinRT, so it should appear shortly for Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 RT.

The problem is, they were caught on the hop and didn't have the resources to get a WinRT version ready for Windows 8's release.

Having used RT tablets, as well as Windows 8 tablets, I think they have done a reasonably good job, I certainly preferred using the ATIV Tab RT device to an iPad 4 or Nexus 10.

But as I still need Windows desktop apps and I don't want to lug around multiple devices, a Windows 8 tablet was the logical device to take.

By big_D on 14 Oct 2013

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