Today Canonical announced the next step in their project to bring Ubuntu to the phone. A new potentially record-breaking IndieGoGo crowd-funding campaign has been launched for the “Ubuntu Edge” – a device which seeks to bring together all the latest developments in mobile technology into a limited-run consumer device… that will run Ubuntu, of course.
In the campaign’s promotional video, Canonical’s founder Mark Shuttleworth reveals that consumer mobile devices dont benefit from the newest existing technologies as phone companies won’t use them until they’re already being produced at scale. Shuttleworth goes on to describe the Ubuntu Edge phone with the latest and greatest technology – a Sapphire Crystal screen (which wont scratch unless you’ve got diamonds in your pocket), a Silicon-anode battery, high-spec CPU, RAM and storage, plus a camera and screen that focus on the features that apply to common usage, rather than just high pixel density.
The phone will be running the latest version of the open source Ubuntu OS for phones (commonly called “Ubuntu Touch”), which is seeking to provide full device convergence – essentially allowing your phone to be your PC when connected to peripherals – and with the specs on offer, that certainly seems realistic.
The phone will also be able to run Android, the currently market leader and competing open source offering. In fact, the IndieGoGo page touts the Ubuntu Edge as an “Open Device”, designed to allow users to tinker with it and run their own software. However this is probably a move to placate those who have fears about switching to a platform with a relatively young ecosystem – there’s a wealth developers producing apps for Android, but not so many for Ubuntu Touch.
There’s a feeling that Canonical are going for broke with this campaign. The goal is set at a whopping $32,000,000 (yes, that’s thirty-two million dollars) which is far more than even the most successful crowd-funded projects in the past, and the price for actually getting your hands on a device is $830 (£540) or $600 (£390) if you back during the first 24 hours. If the campaign doesn’t reach its goal, Canonical will focus solely on “consumer phones” using current technologies, where it will have a battle with the established players.
This could be a huge breakthrough in what companies supported by a community of users can achieve through crowd-funding campaigns, or it could be an embarrassing failure for Canonical and vicariously the Ubuntu community. Ubuntu Touch has been a rocky road for community relations as the company’s goals have been seen by some to drive decisions at the expense of community consultation. The success or failure of Ubuntu Touch could be a tipping point either way in this relationship.
Comment on this story by the open source community has only just started, and there’s already plenty being said for and against the campaign. I’ll look back in a month and we can see how it went!