By now you should have heard that Canonical is branching out from the desktop and has begun work on getting Ubuntu on TVs. Lost in all the discussion of OEM partnerships and content distribution agreements is a more exciting (from my perspective) topic: Ubuntu TV shows why Unity was the right choice for Canonical to make.
The Unity Platform
Ubuntu TV doesn’t just look like Unity, it is Unity. A somewhat different configuration, visually, from the desktop version, but fundamentally the same. Unity isn’t just a top panel and side launcher, it is a set of technologies and APIs: Indicators, Lenses, Quick Lists, DBus menus, etc. All of those components will be the same in Ubuntu TV as they are on the desktop, even if their presentation to the user is slightly different. When you see Unity on tablets and phones it will be the same story.
The Developer Story
Having the same platform means that Ubuntu offers developers a single development target, whether they are writing an application for the desktop, TVs, tablets or phones. There is only one notifications API, only one search API, only one cloud syncing API. Nobody currently offers that kind of unified development platform across all form factors, not Microsoft, not Google, not Apple.
If you are writing the next Angry Birds or TweetDeck, would you want to target a platform that only exists on one or two form factors, or one that will allow your application to run on all of them without having to be ported or rewritten?
The Consumer Story
Anybody with multiple devices has found an application for one that isn’t available for another. How many times have we wanted the functionality offered by one of our desktop apps available to us when we’re on the go? How many games do you have on your phone that you’d like to have on your laptop too? With Ubuntu powered devices you will have what you want where you want it. Combine that with Ubuntu One and your data will flow seamlessly between them as well.
A farewell to Gnome 2
None of this would have been possible with Gnome 2. It was a great platform for it’s time, when there was a clear distinction between computers and other devices. Computers had medium-sized screens, a keyboard and a mouse. They didn’t have touchscreens, they didn’t change aspect ratio when turned sideways. Devices lacked the ability to install third party applications, the mostly lacked network connectivity, and they had very limited storage and processing capabilities.
But now laptops and desktops have touch screens, phones have multi-core, multi-GHz processors. TVs and automobiles are both getting smarter and gaining more and more of the features of both computers and devices. And everything is connected to the Internet. We need a platform for this post-2010 computing landscape, something that can be equally at home with a touch screen as it is with a mouse, with a 4 inch and a 42 inch display.
Unity is that platform.