There is no dearth of claims and facts as to how technology has shaped the way we lead our lives, so much so that the plethora of devices and gadgets around us have become our signatures and extensions. The phenomenal rise in the popularity of the smartphone, coupled with the boost received in digital media and content has given impetus to people spending more time online.
In this data centric time, personal content is often scattered across all the devices that a person uses. With the advent of the cloud and faster internet connections, exchanging data became rather convenient. Gone are the days when you had to transfer documents from one device to the other using a flash drive. The cloud has become a one stop solution when it comes to personal storage.
The innovation in the smartphone/tablet segment is astounding in terms of research and development. The mind boggling specifications of phones these days can put a netbook to shame. The challenge of taking the power of the computer and putting it into your hands has met with success, although with certain hiccups along the way. We have two broad classifications – the red corner consists of the heavyweight PCs and laptops, while the slim smartphones, phablets, tablets and other hand held devices make up the blue corner. Innovations go on separately in these two fields, but the end user feels the need to combine all the devices into a single custom, centralized hub of data.
Recently, Canonical announced that they would bring out the Ubuntu mobile OS and with that, their plan to unite all devices under the common Ubuntu hood. There would even be the functionality to dock your smartphone with your PC, essentially combining the two into one. With a unified OS and docking capability, you would easily be able to chat on WhatsApp using your laptop. This would also mean that you would be able to continue the Angry Birds level on your laptop, where you left off on your phone. The possibilities are pretty endless with a seamless integration of all personal devices. In fact, this idea can be extended to car infotainment systems and streaming gaming consoles as well.
To what extent can this thought of a unified OS materialize?
Evidently, there are quite a lot of hurdles to overcome. Even within the Android and iOS platforms, there are numerous versions, each packing a set of newer features. This disparity and fragmentation in the mobile OS, coupled with the hardware differences between devices scale up this problem by many notches. Microsoft tried to experiment with the Windows 8 as a common platform for PCs and tablets. Though it looked promising at the outset, it was met with resistance and is generally considered to be a worse OS than Windows 7. Although not common in India, there are various tie-ups with carriers that customize the user experience with a variety of apps and services. Add to that the already existing disparity between the same Android versions, but across different OEMs. Also, there are tie-ups between hardware manufacturers and different OSes and software.
The integration that I’m talking about has already started in chunks and pieces. There are desktop applications/browser extensions of most of the apps that are on the Android and iOS market. This facilitates the ease of use of these apps across all devices. Google, the big brother, already has consistency across all its apps and services across all devices. Given the fact that majority of the time it is Google services that are used, this already existing integration makes it easier to switch between different gadgets.
I envisage a time when people will be able to log in to different devices, which may not be their own and access all cloud based services, as customized by them. e.g. If you left your phone at home, but you want to use your friend’s phone, then once you log in to your account using his phone, you should be able to access everything on that phone as if it was your own, be it the wallpaper, icons, contacts, apps, etc. A similar experience would be present on PCs and other devices. This would require a very high speed internet and tremendous cloud storage, but the way things are proceeding now, this doesn’t seem like sci-fi anymore. The most promising blanket for this usage comes in the form of Ubuntu at present, but others may not be far behind.
What are your thoughts?