Mark Shuttleworth takes his case for the Ubuntu Edge to Reddit

The Canonical founder discusses the merits of crowdfunding its superphone, how open the device will be, and whether users should worry about government surveillance

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On how Canonical's attempt at this type of convergence differs from other vendors' (e.g. Microsoft). "We'll be the first to have the full OS on all devices, not an embedded version of the OS. And what's cool for me is that same OS works on servers too (even ARM servers). So there's one flat platform everywhere for developers. Pretty cool."

On how Canonical will address privacy concerns: "We will certainly have an easier time providing transparency on the origin of the code in the platform than, say, your average Android device, where it's all a big hacky mush. The core OS that will be updated regularly on the Ubuntu phones is all traceable directly back to standard Ubuntu source and binary packages.

"There will be a core piece on each phone which handles the hardware, consisting of kernel and drivers and firmware and interfaces to things like the radio. That's where unhealthy things could creep in from manufacturers and carriers. We can offer... constructive guidance there.

"We can do full disk encryption ... I'll suggest it to the team."

On whether Canonical has been approached by law-enforcement agencies like the NSA or FBI for access to its servers: "We've never been asked to support a surveillance campaign. We've been asked to provide data in support of specific criminal investigations (child abuse) and would do so again. We would not comply with a mass surveillance or extra-judicial request, and we would challenge requests that we think are unwarranted.

"I do have concerns that we have data in [Amazon Web Services] and other U.S. clouds that might be subject to PRISM. We're looking at a range of options to provide both security and also plausible deniability to users of Ubuntu who are surveilled."

On preventing carrier interference or lockdown: "We've proposed to our carrier partners that:

  • there's a hardware part to the software that they are responsible for, which is essentially drivers, that gets updated on their schedule (but is not user visible, no apps)
  • there's a core-OS part, which is Ubuntu, which gets updated automatically and is the same for everyone
  • there is a layer for carrier customization, which may be additional apps or scopes or themes but not core OS changes
  • and then there are end-user apps.

"In that world, I think we'll have less silly bloatware, and we can certainly keep the core OS part clean and up to date.

"The Edge will be unlocked LTE. We've briefed existing phone, PC, and carrier partners, and I think they are watching with real interest and support."

On accusations that Canonical ignores the open source community: "I think breaking new ground requires a certain stubborn willingness to pursue an idea that is unpopular. Sometimes, that means stubbornly being wrong, and if one is afraid of being wrong, one will likely not break new ground.

"I also think that there is an interesting evolution as one moves from the fringe to the center. When we started Ubuntu, we took a lot of difficult decisions.... Yet those very decisions made Ubuntu so popular.

"At the end of the day, I think what matters is that every part of Ubuntu has leaders who are trusted to make such hard decisions. They will piss people off. But if they were leaders who could not make choices that pissed people off, then they could not make choices at all, and that's no leadership."

On whether Canonical might roll out a notebook down the road: "I don't see us doing a notebook this way, but if we prove the mechanism of crowdfunding and crowdsourcing ideas and priorities for innovation, I bet someone else will.

"Personally, I'm interested in convergence, the idea that I could be typing this on a keyboard and screen attached to my phone, with the brains being in the phone. So successive iterations of concept phones is where I'd like to keep our involvement."

This story, "Mark Shuttleworth takes his case for the Ubuntu Edge to Reddit," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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