By now, you have all heard the term "Post-PC era" zoom by, one way or another. At least I hope so, and if not then I'll assume you went on an adventure course in the Amazon Rainforest for several months. (In which case I'd be jealous) The term "Post-PC era" refers to the idea that the mobile device is replacing the trusted old desktop and even the laptops more and more. The co-notation "more and more" is very important here. Currently, these mobile devices are an addition to your desktop or laptop, but for some tasks they can provide an alternative means to an end.
More than an alternative
Canonical has taken the thought a bit further and on march 28 they presented their solution to install Ubuntu on Android phones as a secondary OS. There have been many solutions before to install Ubuntu on Android, but mostly they were only available as a custom ROM, or you needed to root your phone and do all sort of technical stuff.
What Canonical wants to achieve here, is that phone makers include a separate Ubuntu installation on Android Phones, allowing both to run simultaniously and with seamless integration. The moment that you put your phone in a docking station, it automatically brings up the Ubuntu desktop on a connected screen.
This means that you wouldn't need a laptop or desktop anymore. You can entirely replace both with your mobile phone, which you carry around anywhere. At home, you can dock your phone on your TV. At work, you dock it with a separate screen. Think of the cost reduction in hardware!
On my desk, I have a docking station for my laptop, the laptop itself, a secondary screen, keyboard, mouse, power adapter, desk phone and I carry around my own Nexus phone. All in all, a good 3000€. If you replace that with a phone dock, a phone, a screen, keyboard and mouse and a power cord, you could get that price down to 1000€. Not bad if you ask me.
All your files can be safely stored on network drives, usb drives, a NAS or somewhere in the cloud accessible from anywhere. Centralizing your infrastructure? that sounds like Thin Clients! The integration is seamless, an incoming call is diverted to your desktop and can even be transferred into a VoIP call.
Ubuntu. Isn't that Linux?
Granted, the proposed solution is a linux solution. I always get the goosebumps when I hear the "L" word. I don't like it, never have. I tried many times installing some sort of Linux on a device at home. I always failed. But if they can make this work with Ubuntu on Android (or Linux on Linux), than why not with Windows on Windows (hey they're doing that), or a Mac OSX on iOS?
Come to think about it, is Ubuntu that bad? Yes, it's Linux. But so is my Android phone (and yours too). So I did the test. I installed Ubuntu on two devices at home. Not ordinary ones, but tricky ones. I had a convertible laptop/tablet Toshiba. It's a 6 year old hunchback with a lot of problems. I figured "No way in hell I'll get Linux up and running on that thing". Surprisingly however, it went without a glitch. Insert disc, install, use. No need to **** around with drivers, terminals, root access,.. Nothing. Out of the box, I had an entire office suite (email, word, excel, presentation, database), media players and a browser. That's pretty much everything that 90% of us needs. If you need more, it comes with an App Store too. And nothing is stopping you from installing Java driven programs like SAP Gui for Java, Eclipse,...
Same thing on my other device: a custom built home server which I use as a media center, webserver, Mini-SAP server, fileserver and a bunch of other things... Windows had a lot of troubles with this machine (or the other way around). For starters, it didn't recognize the 8GB inside. So I figured, "What the hell, why not". Same procedure: Insert disc, install, run. The tricky part still had to come. I had to be able to mount my storage discs and share them. 3 clicks later, problem solved. I also had to setup the webserver. Click click, done. By now, I was baffled. I haven't yet tried to get the miniSAP up and running. I'm pretty sure that's going to be a challenge (if at all possible). But it's even a challenge on a Windows machine, so that wouldn't be fair.
I wouldn't say my granny could operate Ubuntu, but then again, she can't operate Windows either.
To put it in the words of Steve Jobs: "It just works"
I'm deviating. I don't want this to become a "year of the linux desktop" debate. I'm a bit enthusiastic about Ubuntu, ok. But that isn't my goal here. "Post-PC" is.
What about management?
Leaving aside the debate of "which OS is better", IT will still have its doubts, because they have to provision software on the laptops today. How are they going to manage that on a mobile device? With Mobile Device Management obviously! But is it really that easy? Is it possible to push software to the secondary OS on your phone?
With the Microsoft Configurator tool, the opposite is already possible. It's primarily intended to manage and provision the laptops and desktops, but you can also use it to manage mobile devices. How long is it going to take before the MDM's will have a functionality to provision hybrid devices?
I believe that in the years to come, this sort of office setup is going to pop up in more and more companies. Maybe not the big ones yet, but this type of setup is going to replace the good old bulky desktop more and more.
Maybe not today, but surely, would you have imagined using your phone as a PC only 5 years ago?