Ubuntu’s Addiction to Dual-Booting

Ubuntu Mobile (Touch Image)
What an awesome platform? Got popular apps?

I was disappointed to see Canonical push a release of Ubuntu Touch that allows users to Dual-Boot to Android. Ubuntu Users often times Dual-Boot to Windows or MacOSX on their desktop and this part of the Ubuntu story has not been an exciting one because it shows that there is a gap in utility in Ubuntu that other platforms fill.

Although I know 14.04 LTS will be a big push towards even more convergence I really think the biggest priority for Canonical and the Ubuntu Community at this point should be focusing on bridging the gap between Ubuntu and other operating systems on mobile and desktop.

Until users can do everything they need to on Ubuntu without dual-booting being part of the story Ubuntu is not going to be the daily driver we want it to be for our users, and this really applies to community flavors too. We need a much more solid app ecosystem for our users to persuade them not to dual-boot and to instead use one platform for all the things (Gaming, Photo Editing, Office, VOIP, Multimedia).

I do think Ubuntu has made some significant progress in attracting platforms like Valve’s Steam and even some new indie games but in regards to other bits of applications of users expect on their desktop and phone we are nowhere near where we need to be. I think offering dual-booting to Android was a compromise for users because Canonical does not now have the app ecosystem that users want or need.

I think Canonical has the ability to do some really solid partnership development in and get consumer apps delivered on Ubuntu Desktop and Ubuntu Touch in 2014, but now it is evident that the progress in partnerships has been less than what is needed to be a competitive platform.

I know that Mark Shuttleworth didn’t envision Ubuntu as being a platform that had a gap wide enough that it required users to dual-boot in order to fulfill their computing needs.


  1. says

    Hi Ben,

    Just a few notes to clarify a few points. From https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Touch/DualBootInstallation:

    “Ubuntu Dual Boot Installer was born as an internal skunkworks project some Canonical Engineers dedicated a limited amount of their time to. Seeing the good progress, it was decided to release this preview for the developer community to test, study and contribute to.”

    “Dual boot is not part of the regular Ubuntu release.”

    In summary, there has been no push for an Ubuntu Touch release with dual boot. Dual boot is not part of the released Ubuntu images and is only intended for those devs who want to run both OSs. In fact, those running Ubuntu already as their sole OS won’t need dual boot.

    The focus of Ubuntu Touch, and in particular for the 14.04 release remains unaffected by dual boot.


    • says

      As I pointed out on G+ I think that even though Canonical has pointed out the Ubuntu for Android release is for developers other sites did not clarify that when they posted but even still Ubuntu Touch itself is currently for developers.

      I think the focus of 14.04 still will not remove the need for users of Ubuntu Touch and Desktop to have either dual-booting or another piece of hardware being part of their setup. I think reducing the gap is an important step and will require some solid Partnership Development.

      • says

        I’m having a hard time taking in what David said. canonical engineers spent limited time on dev dual boot functionalities for ubuntu and android…. I get that devs can do whatever they won’t in their free time but that just seems like a huge conflict of interest or a sick joke. I too hold Benjamin’s viewpoint, this project no matter how it was developed or by who is a waste of time and could be seen as a way out or an attempt to fill the app ecosystem gap. if the devs of our new awesome mobile os want to dual boot …. well yeah you see where I’m going.

          • Ian Nicholson says

            Dude, they made something cool, and you’re complaining that it’s not the right /type/ of cool?

              • Ian Nicholson says

                It seems like you’re saying that every Canonical employee must have a single-minded devotion to briging the ecosystem gap otherwise their time is badly spent.
                You appear to be drawing conclusions from your own use case while ignoring other possible use cases, because it’s not difficult for me to imagine a situation where someone would want to play around with Ubuntu on their phone while maintaining the ability to boot back into Android if they want. Off the top of my head, Victor Palau has posted a very nice blog[1] on the benefits for developers. If anything, this is going to make it even easier for developers to develop for mobile Ubuntu devices, thus bridging the ecosystem gap.

                [1] http://victorpalau.net/2013/12/23/developing-for-android-and-ubuntu-with-the-same-phone/

                • says

                  “It seems like you’re saying that every Canonical employee must have a single-minded devotion to briging the ecosystem gap otherwise their time is badly spent.”

                  I’m unsure where you got that idea from because I never suggested that in my blog post but instead suggested that more partnership/business development could result in conservations that help fill the ecosystem gap that currently exists. It would be silly to suggest developers spend time on trying to wear a partners/biz dev hat.

                  Developers that cannot afford to purchase or do not have access to development device are not making the kind of apps that most end-users expect on their mobile or desktop platforms.

                  Do you think that Rovio, Gameloft, Ambrosia Software, WhatsApp Inc, Spotify or any of the other major app developers are lacking a lab full of Android? The kind of developers Victor Palau might think this would benefit are probably hobbyist developers making Sudoku or other low tier apps.

                • Ian Nicholson says

                  That just seems like a really weird criticism to attach to this particular development, since it’s not like the engineers who developed this are the ones that are going to be convincing devs to port their code.

  2. says

    As far as I’m concerned dual-booting is over. My modus operandi since early 2000 has been to buy Windows laptops and dual-boot them with Linux, but to buy custom-built workstations and only install Linux on them. My current laptop is probably the last one that will be dual-booted, however. As little as I use Windows, a virtual machine is fine, and Virtual Machine Manager / qemu-kvm now has decent desktop virtualization.

    At this point the only things I run that need Windows are occasional webinars that won’t run in Firefox or Chrome on Linux and a few Kindle books that only play in the PC Kindle app. I can’t remember the last time I used Word or Excel. Incidentally, I don’t see much difference between Ubuntu and the other community desktop distros – Fedora, openSUSE, Linux Mint and Mageia – in terms of “gaps” relative to Windows and MacOS X. As long as there are lawyers and accountants and branding, etc., there are always going to be a few things that lock you into a vendor, but I don’t think Ubuntu lags Fedora or openSUSE in that respect.

    • says

      Although your use might allow you to avoid dual-booting the fact that you still need to boot into a Windows VM to do anything shows that even you have a small gap that another operating system fills. Now I would imagine the average users gap is significantly larger and their use of another OS to get stuff they need is much more.

  3. Beowolf741 says

    Using Ubuntu has been fun in these especially lean years I’ve experienced. However, until Adobe adapts its arsenal of programs to run on Linux or someone else does, there may be a reason to dual boot. A second reason is most friends run Windows. I want back into the cutting edge MacOS and machine with Ubuntu as a backup.

    • says

      This is why Partnership Development needs to be a serious focus of Canonical’s… A good example is Firefox OS has apps like Cut the Rope while Ubuntu does not and thats probably a result of no conversation being started.

  4. Ian Nicholson says

    I’m confused about what point you’re actually trying to make here, you seem like you’re all over the map.

    If your point is that it’s important to have native big-name(e.g. cut the rope) programs(something you touched on in the comments here) then just take a look at the evernote integration, that’s something that’s happening.

    If you’re saying that users shouldn’t have to dual boot, you’re missing the point, because there are a bunch of people like me who have Nexus’ on Sprint: I want to try Ubuntu Touch right now, but I can’t afford to be completely unable to make calls; with this, I can sit in Ubuntu most of the time, and once or twice a day switch to Android to check my voicemail. Until there’s a phone I can buy with Ubuntu on it, this lets me get more involved.

    • says

      As David has pointed out the Ubuntu for Android platform is just meant for developers and is separate from the Ubuntu Touch platform which is there focus. They may or may not support Ubuntu for Android going forward.

  5. jon_downfromthetrees says

    Over the long term, a focus on improving the capabilities of Linux tools and apps, rather than hoping for existing Windows vendors to port their current products, might be the better approach. (If a user is happy using X, Y and Z on Windows, why would that user want to switch to Linux and run ported versions of X, Y and Z?)

    Users will fret less about leaving behind a given Windows program if they know that there is a better tool for the task available on Linux.

    That’s essentially what draws people from Windows to OS X: The ready availablity of applications people would rather use than their Windows’ counterparts.

    People will migrate to Linux, and leave dual booting behind, when it offers the same kind of rich app landscape. It’s getting better, but it is certainly not there yet.
    Dual booting is a pain and a minefield of problems, as a stroll around Ubuntuforums and AskUbuntu will show on any given day. No matter what really happened, a typical post begins with this assertion: “Ubuntu Broke My Windows!”. So, let’s aim for the day when it’s the abundance of great applications that lures people to leave Windows behind altogether.

  6. Tim Chavez says

    “it is evident that the progress in partnerships has been less than what is needed to be a competitive platform” because a few developers saw the utility in dual-booting their devices while the OS is still under development and enabled it?

  7. Winfried Maus says

    “Ubuntu Users often times Dual-Boot to Windows or MacOSX on their desktop
    and this part of the Ubuntu story has not been an exciting one because
    it shows that there is a gap in utility in Ubuntu that other platforms
    Let’s face it: The only ones that do not have a need to dual boot anything are Windows users. Even OS X users usually have at least a virtual machine with Windows on their system or they “boot camp” (read: dual boot) into Windows, too. Either to play games that are not available for their own platform or to run that piece of business software that requires a Microsoft OS. Hate it or love it, but the only “complete” platform that “has it all” still is Microsoft Windows. And when it still is more important to pump developer resources into projects like “Mir” instead of application software that people need, it’s not likely that this will ever change.
    There are good reasons to use Ubuntu LTS on a server, but frankly, except for it being free as in beer, I cannot think of any reason why I should use Ubuntu on a desktop – everything that I could do on Ubuntu, I can also do on Windows or OS X, but with less headaches in a more comfortable and more user friendly way and usually with software that has superior quality, documentation and support. But let’s ignore the desktop for now – that battle’s long lost anyway.
    The market for mobile platforms is split between iOS and Android, and of these two, only the completely closed platform has really good software written for it. Isn’t that strange? Why do developers write quality software for the closed, proprietary iOS and why is most of the stuff in in Google’s Play Store just junk in comparison? I’m an Android user myself, but that only works for me because I spend most of my time in Google’s Chrome for Android browser instead of using any apps (except for Amazon’s Kindle app).
    If even Android, the mobile platform with the largest market share, apparently is only an afterthought for developers of quality software, how shall Ubuntu Touch ever get any good software unless Canonical writes it all by themselves?
    Offering a dual boot setup is a bone they threw at developers, but it won’t attract any users at all. Users don’t want to dual boot. I firmly believe that a dual boot setup is a crutch that proves only one thing: That you are NOT using a viable platform. As long as you have to boot another OS in order to do what you need or want to do, then you’re backing the wrong horse and you’re wasting time and money. Mind you: I’m talking about a USER’S perspective here, not a dev’s perspective. Dual booting and VMs are awesome for developers. But developers are NOT regular users, and that stuff should not be a part of the user experience.
    The Apple ecosystem is so rich with quality software for an awfully simple reason: iOS users spend more money on software and other content than anybody else. It all comes down to the simple fact that Apple manages to attract customers that have credit cards and that enjoy buying premium-priced hardware and premium content. And the developers of quality software prefer to go where it’s lucrative for them, and that is where they can find paying customers. It doesn’t matter that Android has a larger user base when the iOS user base spends MUCH more money.
    I don’t think it’s about conversation or partnership with developers. From everything I hear, Apple doesn’t really care about these things either – they treat developers as a necessary evil, not as first class citizens and certainly not as “partners”.
    It’s about building an attractive ecosystem. The problem is that most Linux ecosystems traditionally focus on “open” and “free” – but that does not pay any bills and most users only care about the free as in beer part. Economically interesting and viable ecosystems focus on “value” – value for the customers and content providers. What value can Ubuntu Touch offer for consumers and content providers? What makes it unique? What’s the killer feature? What is its appeal? Where is it sexy? Why would I want to use it? Why would I choose it before all the other available options? What does it do for me that nobody else does or at least, nobody else does so well?

  8. says

    I don’t dualboot my Desktop, but I really need this feature on the phone. Ubuntu still misses some apps(e.g. XMPP and E-Mail) for me to be usable as my main phone OS. As a developer I want to help to develop those apps but don’t loose productivity. So dual boot is the only solution, for now.

    As far as I know, this feature is not intended for casual users and only targeted towards developers.

    • mars says

      I am a user and Linux enthusiast. I bought a Nexus 4 to put Ubuntu on it. Then I started playing around with Android. This was quite enlightening, since my prior phone, which I stil use is a Nokia N900 – Linux FTW. Guess what? Android is still on the phone. I found some interesting apps, and one must have app that completely changed my work flow in one area and that is only available on Android or iOS.

      It is unrealistic for Ubuntu to try to bridge the gap with every user’s must have app, and there won’t always be an alternative application possible with equivalent functionality.

      I admit it, I have been seduced by the siren song of productivity, after being a consistent early adopter of many many linux devices over the years.

      • says

        It is unfortunate that you think it is impossible because if it is impossible then Canonical has already lost. Convergence will not attract users if the apps are not there to go with it.

        It is totally not unreasonable to expect a major OS to get the app ecosystem necessary to meet their users expectations. Even Shuttleworth realizes this as he points out regularly he has a Windows, Android and iPhone in addition to his phone running Ubuntu Touch simply put so he can keep track of what users expect.

        Similar comments have been made in the past regarding unity being a desktop environment that Mac users would be familiar with.