Afronaut in Barcelona

2012-03-03 07:45

Writing for Rolling Stone Magazine South Africa, launched in December 2011 and Africa Telecoms, Africa’s premier telecommunications title has it perks. I managed to get some time exclusively with Mark Shuttleworth during the MWC 2012 show and for me this was certainly a major highlight.

Mark Shuttleworth, South African entrepreneur and the first AFRONAUT (African to enter Space) is worthy of speaking about. For all of his successes, he still makes an effort to meet with fellow South Africans. When I approached the Ubuntu stand at Mobile World Congress, I had no idea he was even in Barcelona.

One of the Ubuntu staff members was giving me a demo of Ubuntu One, a cloud storage system which will compete with the likes of Dropbox, when Shuttleworth’s name came up in conversation. On hearing he was at the show, I ceased the opportunity to ask for a time to meet with him. The reply, “We can definitely try, as Mark always makes a special effort when it comes to fellow South Africans.” And he did.

Currently residing in London, but a self professed child of the world, Shuttleworth still feels mostly at home in the Mother City, Cape Town. Proudly flying the South African flag wherever he goes and with his SA accent firmly in place, he takes the spirit of Ubuntu to many countries around the globe including having had outstanding successes in unlikely countries such as China, Brazil, and “Poland where Ubuntu has gone ballistic.”

Ubuntu exhibited at MWC this year to showcase “what many people have described as one of the top two things to see at this years Mobile World Congress, the Ubuntu desktop, a lean mean, beautiful, free yet highly productive desktop for humanity. Built into Android phones, we have spent the last five years building a reputation as a great desktop server OS for enterprise, home or office use. This is now our first opportunity to show what we have been doing in the mobile space.”

Ubuntu Desktop affords the ability to have a full Ubuntu OS running on an Android device, that when docked into a large screen through an HDMI cable, will run as a full PC. This product has amazing implications in emerging economies, Shuttleworth continues: “Africa is very much a frontier emerging market and this is all about first touch, first contact, first exposure to technology and it’s about leapfrogging. Importantly it also allows Africans to skip the inefficiencies of the past and affect an early embrace of efficient ways to work, ways to share and ways to learn for the future. For Africa specifically, I think the key technologies are wireless for internet access and communications and in many instances, we will see the skipping of the copper era and see communities being connected over the air and even over fibre. There are many families in Africa that have a screen, whether it is a TV or a computer screen and they recognize the need for communication. In most cases the first communication device they will buy for a member of the family will be a mobile phone. Ubuntu on Android gives the ability to turn that phone into the first PC.”

According to Shuttleworth, meetings with various manufacturers at MWC have been very positive. With the pace of development in the handset market accelerated at the moment, he is confident that we should see devices running Ubuntu desktop on the market before the end of 2012.

Interestingly, there is also talk of a full Ubuntu mobile OS, which would put him in direct competition with Google and there OS Android.

Whatever the eventual outcome, Shuttleworth is sure to make his presence known in the mobile market place. On a personal note I wish him and the Ubuntu team the best of success, as the product offerings are great. And if you want more info that head over to the Ubuntu website, there is loads on offer and it is all open source.

Adios

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