Talk about taking a risk: Ubuntu company Canonical has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to finance the production of its first smartphone, which we now know is called the Ubuntu Edge, and it’s set a lofty goal for itself of $32 million in just 30 days.
There are 40,000 first-run handsets on offer, working out at an average of $800 per unit. However, those pledging their backing in the first day will only need to shell out $600 — after that it’s $830. That’s a lot of people who will need to pledge major money up front for an unproven handset, if Canonical is to avoid egg on its face. And the device is only shipping in May 2014.
The specs of the Edge don’t look bad though: a quad-core CPU with at least 4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a 4.5-inch 1,280×720-pixel display with “Sapphire crystal glass”, an 8MP rear camera and a 2MP affair in the front, and an HDMI port. After all, this device will effectively be running the full Ubuntu Linux distribution, with a mobile-friendly user interface on top.
The Edge will dual-boot Ubuntu and Android, which is of course also built on top of Linux. According to Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth, it’s a “laptop-class” concept device that’s trying to be 2-3 years ahead of usual smartphone pack — Canonical is pitching this as an in-house effort, but Shuttleworth said in a conference call on Monday that the firm would be open to a big-name manufacturer taking it on board.
Shuttleworth said Canonical was also talking to unnamed manufacturers about rolling out more standard Ubuntu phones. Carriers such as Deutsche Telekom, Verizon and China Unicom are already signed up to help shape the OS’s development, but haven’t yet agreed to distribute the devices.
Cool but not core
I asked Shuttleworth what would happen if the crowdfunding campaign fails to meet its target. He pointed out that the device would ship with both Ubuntu and Android, so buyers won’t need to worry about using an unproven OS, but he said production wouldn’t go ahead if the target is missed.
Even then, he noted, the Edge is not core to Canonical’s mobile strategy as it doesn’t want to be a manufacturer in the end — it just wants to try out a new way of pushing mobile innovation. “Our core strategy remains the phone platform itself – we are on track to do that,” he said.
Here’s the Indiegogo pitch video:
This article originally stated that certain operators had signed up to distribute Ubuntu phones, but in fact they have not yet taken that step, and this was clarified in an update.