Purism: A Linux OS is talking Convergence again

The hype around "convergence" just won't die it seems. We have heard it from Ubuntu a lot, KDE, even from Google and Apple in fact. But the dream of true convergence, a uniform OS experience across platforms, never really materialised. Even behemoths like Apple and Googled failed to pull it off with their Android/iOS duopoly. Purism's Debian based PureOS wants to change all that for good.
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Purism, PureOS, and the future of Convergence

Purism, a computer technology company based out of California, shot to fame for its Librem series of privacy and security focused laptops and smartphones. Purism raised over half a million dollars through a Crowd Supply crowdfunding campaign for its laptop hardware back in 2015. And unlike many crowdfunding megahits which later turned out to be duds, Purism delivered on its promises big time.

Later in 2017, Purism surprised everyone again with their successful crowdfunding campaign for its Linux based opensource smartphone, dubbed Librem 5. The campaign raised over $2.6 million and surpassed its 1.5 million crowdfunding goal in just in two weeks. Purism's Librem 5 smartphones will start shipping late 2019.

Librem, which loosely refers to free and opensource software, was the brand name chosen by Purism for its laptops/smartphones. One of the biggest USPs of Purism devices is the hardware kill switches that it comes loaded with, which physically disconnects phone's camera, WiFi, Bluetooth, and mobile broadband modem.

Meet PureOS, Purism's Debian Based Linux OS

PureOS is a free and opensource, Debian based Linux distribution which runs on all Librem hardware including its smartphones. PureOS is endorsed by Free Software Foundation. 

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The term convergence in computer speak, refers to applications that can work seamlessly across platforms, and bring a consistent look and feel and similar functionality on your smartphone and your computer. 
"Purism is beating the duopoly to that dream, with PureOS: we are now announcing that Purism’s PureOS is convergent, and has laid the foundation for all future applications to run on both the Librem 5 phone and Librem laptops, from the same PureOS release", announced Jeremiah Foster, the PureOS director at Purism (by duopoly, he was referring to Android/iOS platforms that dominate smartphone OS ecosystem).
Ideally, convergence should be able to help app developers and users all at the same time. App developers should be able to write their app once, testing it once and running it everywhere. And users should be able to seamlessly use, connect and sync apps across devices and platforms.

Easier said than done though. As Jeremiah Foster himself explains:
"it turns out that this is really hard to do unless you have complete control of software source code and access to hardware itself. Even then, there is a catch; you need to compile software for both the phone’s CPU and the laptop CPU which are usually different architectures. This is a complex process that often reveals assumptions made in software development but it shows that to build a truly convergent device you need to design for convergence from the beginning."

How PureOS is achieving convergence?

PureOS have had a distinct advantage when it comes to convergence. Purism is a hardware maker that also designs its platforms and software. From its inception, Purism has been working on a "universal operating system" that can run on different CPU architectures.

librem opensource phone

"By basing PureOS on a solid, foundational operating system – one that has been solving this performance and run-everywhere problem for years – means there is a large set of packaged software that 'just works' on many different types of CPUs."

The second big factor is "adaptive design", software apps that can adapt for desktop or mobile easily, just like a modern website with responsive deisgn.

"Purism is hard at work on creating adaptive GNOME apps – and the community is joining this effort as well – apps that look great, and work great, both on a phone and on a laptop".

Purism has also developed an adaptive presentation library for GTK+ and GNOME, called libhandy, which the third party app developers can use to contribute to Purism's convergence ecosystem. Still under active development, libhandy is already packaged into PureOS and Debian.