I have been following the news about the Ubuntu touch phones and tablets for a while. The functionality people get out of these tablets and phones make me excited about their future, and that is why I wanted to get my hands on one of these. I ended up ordering an M10 FHD tablet that I am now eagerly awaiting. I ordered the FHD version with the slightly faster processor, faster GPU, better cameras and some more pixels on the screen to get the best experience possible.
My thought in getting this tablet is that I already have a phone that I like, but when I use it to read webpages, ebooks, watch films, series and online video, even with its “large” 6.4 inch screen, I feel that the phone is not really large enough for long-time content consumption. It is however brilliant at short news updates, and I use it heavily for audio podcasts. Another reason is that my laptop, even if it is a 12 inch ThinkPad X201, is a bit too large to bring with me, but my phone is a bit too small and limited in software (Android apps) to do everything I do on my laptop. At home I have got my desktop (i5 Haswell NUC), and I know that most of the stuff I do when out and about is less demanding tasks, but at the same time, often more practical to do with a keyboard/mouse interface with desktop software on a larger screen than to do in an app on a small phone screen with a touch based interface. (I know because I have tried Android with a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, which works, but in the end becomes a bit too cumbersome an experience because of the screen size and touch-focused software. LibreOffice on a 6.4 inch screen isn’t all that great.) The M10 Ubuntu edition has both a tablet mode and a desktop mode, so I could possibly use it for both the things that I now do on my phone and the things that I like to do on my laptop or desktop. It might be a golden compromise between portability and functionality.
With the ability to run desktop grade Linux software and converge into the desktop mode user interface when adding a keyboard and mouse (and a separate screen if practical), an Ubuntu tablet suddenly becomes much more usable for me than iOS or Android tablet. I do a lot of writing in LibreOffice and like the old keyboard and mouse/trackpad way of interacting with software for tasks like writing. In the iOS app store and Google play store, your choices are limited in software and unless you do web-centric work, not having access to the filesystem might be a problem when using different tools on the same file if you do not outsource all your storage to iCloud or dropbox (which cost a bit when you fill them up). On an Ubuntu tablet, you have file system access and the possibility to use desktop software (although very few titles yet). This appeals to me.
Unlike hybrids that try to be two things at the same time and seldom are good at more than one of them, if any, a true tablet that converges is first and foremost a tablet, but with the addition of desktop software and a true desktop interface available when used with keyboard/mouse/trackpad. Software is still the main reason why laptops can do more than tablets (even if you do not do processor heavy tasks like video editing), but with that problem gradually being taken care of for the Ubuntu tablets (the number of titles packaged as libertine packages is still limited), it seems like these things could do almost anything. You have to carry whatever combo of keyboard, mouse, trackpad or cover with keyboard you like in addition to the tablet itself, but together, they often weigh less than a laptop and you get to choose your own accessories.
One advantage Ubuntu touch has over Android and iOS tablets and phones is that there is no built in forced obsolesensce. On other platforms, the software is either not updated at all or only updated for a limited time. You might think that software updates is not important if you can still use your device to do what you like it to do, but when you use an internet connected device, you get vulnerable to hackers exploiting security holes in software really fast if you do not get security updates. They might not target you specifically, but if you have the right combination of security holes, they might still get in and use your device for whatever purpose they wish. Most Android devices and many older iOS devices never get updates, and are hence walking security holes with front and rear facing cameras and microphones. It’s not ideal for privacy. On Ubuntu touch, newer features might only work on some devices, but all the devices get over the air updates and no carrier can stop that from happening. OTA-11 was released quite recently and there were some tablety updates to smooth out some rough edges even if much of it focused on getting athercast working on the Meizu Pro 5 phone for convergence on an external screen.
To sum up, I bought the M10 tablet because I think Ubuntu tablets with desktop software and convergence might be more useful for me than tablets have seemed so far. Unlike other tablets, Ubuntu touch will get updates. I like what Cannonical is doing with Ubuntu touch and even if it is still early days, I am excited enough to want to take part in it. With desktop software, convergence, a keyboard and mouse/trackpad, the M10 might even be able to replace my laptop for anything I do on the road. I will probably not use it much in desktop mode with an external screen, as I already have a desktop computer at home, but this functionality might be useful for watching a film on a TV in a hotel or when visiting friends or family. If the tablet replaces my laptop, I will save some energy, I will gain a tablet for content consumption while not sacrificing productivity in LibreOffice in desktop mode, I will probably carry a few grams fewer around and the thing will take up a bit less space.
I think the Ubuntu tablet with convergence adds just the small amount of extra features (continuous updates, convergence and a non-spyware and non-walled garden OS) that tips me over from thinking that tablets are just large phones without SMS and calling to thinking that these devices could be the future of computing. At present, a phone or tablet would not replace a desktop, but with desktop mode, more libertine-packaged desktop software, future hardware with more processing power and storage space and a dock with some extra ports, it could actually be a replacement for a work laptop hooked up to a screen, keyboard and mouse at a desk in the near future, especially for people working with things that do not demand too much processing power. I am excited about the potential of Ubuntu touch, and I am looking forward to getting my hands on the M10 soon. There seems to be a lack of more in depth looks at particular aspects of the user interface available online, so I might make a video or blog post discussing the use of the device in more detail in the future.