Ubuntu Phones, Steam Boxes and FireChrome

I spent most of January sick, and I am not entirely sure that it is completely gone. Still, I feel well enough to write again, and there are a few hot topics that I would like to address.

Ubuntu phone

1. Ubuntu Phones – Early this year, Canonical announced plans to develop an Ubuntu phone operating system. This goes beyond simply running an Ubuntu interface over Android. This is a completely new OS. As you probably know, Mozilla is also developing a Firefox mobile OS. So, the question many may ask is: Is there truly room for another mobile OS?

This is a far different question than desktop/laptop operating systems. You can buy a PC or laptop and install Ubuntu anytime you want. With phones in particular, that may prove difficult with carrier restrictions; not to mention the steeper learning curve involved in flashing a mobile OS vs. simply installing an OS on a computer. Instead, Canonical, Mozilla, and anyone else who gets involved in the mobile OS business will have to convince carriers and phone manufacturers to sell their products and ship their phones with the OSes installed. It is certainly possible, as we have seen it with Android, but it is still a tall order.

2. Firefox and Chrome have a chat – This is a short one, but I thought it was pretty cute and shows that even competitors can find common ground and work together. Unlike the bitter wars between Apple and Microsoft, Google and Mozilla are on good terms. They recently developed an in-browser video chat system called WebRTC  that is supposedly crystal clear and could really give Skype a run for its money.

3. Steam Boxes – Valve shocked the open source world when it released Steam for Linux. OK, it was not exactly a shock. We saw it coming for a quite a while, but I personally was still in disbelief up until they actually released it. Now, Valve has plans to create video game consoles, running Linux, that will plug right into your TV and allow for controller-enabled gaming. In doing so, they will compete directly with the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Wii U. Its “big picture” mode has already been a hit with users.

The games for the Steam box are supposedly going to be the same ones you play on the PC. See a problem yet? Yes, most of the games available for PC run on Windows only. Even Steam for Linux only has a handful, many of which are independent games, and not all are controller-enabled.

My main concern is not that Valve will be able to convince gaming companies to make Linux versions of their games, rather that they will encumber them with some type of restrictive DRM or other hindrances that will make them incompatible with normal PCs running Linux. We have seen this before with Netflix. The Roku Box and Chromebook both run Linux and have Netflix apps, but Netflix still does not work on standard Linux distributions.

Hopefully, Valve will be a champion of Linux and lobby to get more games on the OS, rather than an abuser that only uses Linux for its own profits.

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