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Summary:

The Ubuntu firm must now find 40,000 people who are willing to pony up at least $600 up-front for a handset running an as-yet-unproven mobile operating system. Then again, it also runs Android and the specs are outrageous…

Ubuntu Edge

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.

Killer specs

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.

  1. I think its a bold move to toss a new handset dart at the mobile dart board while hoping for a small but dedicated bullseye. Nokia tried with Meego and if they hadnt mishandled it like everything else they touched in recent years it would still be around.

    Good luck Canonical, I salute your chutzpah for just taking the shot!!!!

  2. Sub-par campaign.
    I want Ubuntu to succeed in mobile even if only for the desktop mode since most OSes are not doing much to scale on bigger screens but this campaign could have easily been a lot better.
    The phone market ,just like the PC market , sells on specs, going with 4.5 inch 720p and 8MP cam at the very least tempers the excitement. 5-5.4 inch 1080p with thin bezel (thin bezel is a key feature) would be much better and would certainly sell better.
    The cam at 8MP just suggests it’s not good enough even if it is. Sure in the end pics that at least match 4k screens res are ok. Some cool features wouldn’t hurt like 4k video shooting,120FPS at 1080p ,image stabilization, xenon flash, good dual mics and so on.
    There is no mention of microSD and it’s an absolute must for any device,even more so for Ubuntu.Removable battery wouldn’t hurt either.
    No mention of Wifi ac,another must, while Wigig and IR blaster would also be nice.
    128GB is a waste, cost wise, unless it’s the only way to get great NAND perf. If it’s not about perf then 32-64GB and microSD is far more reasonable.
    Don’t remember wireless charging being mentioned either.
    So the specs could be much better even if without something fundamentally new and unexpected.
    They should also try to commit to A57 cores or similar on 20nm to assure buyers that perf will be great- on paper at least.

    Now the price, 830$ just feels like a ripoff, it’s just a bit too much. They needed the price to be 650-750 at most and quite a lot less if they wanted to get people excited. How about 500$ or 600$ and price dropping in a significant way for every x phones sold so supporters would have an incentive to advertise the campaign and get more press coverage around the campaign.

    Given all that i see it as a failed campaign, but the 32 mil target is just bellow 40k units so not that much and maybe somehow they reach the goal.

    1. At about 11pm ET last night they hit 3mil$ ,30 mins later the 600$ offer sold out and they hit a brick wall, They got about 300k in 12h since. Was worried they’ll be 20 mil short.Now it seems that they added a 1400$ offer for 2 phones so they are trying do adjust but don’t think it’s enough,more is needed.

  3. If you can jack in a USB 3 hub and HDMI for a monitor, then it’s a desktop replacement and a phone – a good deal. I don’t like Unity or the Ubuntu software support cycle, so it’s the concept that’s interesting.

  4. Frank A NYC Monday, July 22, 2013

    What risk? They are asking for money today, so they can send you a phone in 6 months, maybe. I think the risk is to the “investors”.

    1. I meant reputational risk for Canonical – it would be embarrassing to miss that target.

  5. Sydney Armani Monday, July 22, 2013

    Scanadu breaks Indiegogo record with over $1.66 million in funding

    http://crowdfundbeat.com/scanadu-breaks-indiegogo-record-with-over-1-3-million-in-funding/

  6. Screen is too small, but maybe that is to do with power management and battery life. Interesting idea for a desktop replacement though!

    1. But Ubuntu needs space on the sides for edge motion. Edge motion will be part of the interaction with the OS so they can’t shrink the bezel too much. I’ve played with the new Blackberry OS a little and once one gets the edge motion concept it is actually very nice.

  7. Is it commpetible with WIN or MS DOS? If yes – it’s greate!

  8. Hello from Russia!
    There ARM or x86?
    How into the account of Wi-fi of the standard of 802.11 ac?
    Also could add booting in CyanogenMod, considering that they by development of Ubuntu Touch use their components.
    Parameters all interesting, it would be desirable to take in hands :) I hope, in the future there will be more scale batch of similar phones!

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