So you may have heard (seriously, how could you not?) that Canonical is crowd-funding a showcase phone called Ubuntu Edge. This is very exciting for a number of reasons, which I will get to below, but first go look at the Indie GoGo campaign page to see what I’m talking about.
Back? Good. Did you contribute? For the first 24 hours you can get a phone for a highly discounted contribution of $600 USD, rather than the $830 USD it will cost you tomorrow, so if you really want one of these it’s best to put your money on the table now.
The phone hardware is impressive on it’s own, with more CPU, RAM and storage space than the laptop I was using for daily work last year. Not only that, but it’s going to feature advances in the glass and battery that I haven’t seen on other phones. Sapphire crystal glass, which can only be scratched by diamond, will keep your screen looking brand new for years to come. And the silicon-anode battery promises faster charging and longer runtime without increasing the size of the handset. You can see the full spec list on our other announcements.
I like this because we’re not asking you to contribute to making just another ordinary phone like all the rest you can buy already. Instead we’re pushing the envelope to pioneer a new class of convergent superphones, a market that Ubuntu is uniquely positioned for. This hardware will run Ubuntu Touch, Ubuntu for Android, and (when docked) a full Ubuntu Desktop. But we’re not just playing the “make it bigger, make it faster” game, the design of Ubuntu Edge’s hardware is deliberate, everything choice was made based on what would provide the best user experience, what would make the edge-swipe gestures easy and responsive, what would let us show more of an app’s content while still fitting into the palm of the user’s hand. This is a device designed from top to bottom for Ubuntu.
The margin on most production phones is thin enough to see though, which means that an OEM can’t afford to take risks with emerging technology or markets. That’s why it’s so important that we prove both the capabilities of Ubuntu for convergence, and the consumer appeal for such a device. Apple had to do it with the original iPhone, Google does it with their Nexus line of devices, and now it’s our turn to show what’s possible.
Instead of seeking private capital to build these phones, then trying to sell them (at a profit or loss), we’ve decided to take it directly to the user community, which is why we’re asking you to pledge some amount to our campaign. We couldn’t build Ubuntu without our community, and we can’t build Ubuntu Edge without you either.
Our target goal is $32 million, which sounds like a lot, but only because it is. It really is. But it’s still only a fraction of the cost of an actual production line of phones. In order for an OEM to ship an Ubuntu phone (or any new phone), they would typically invest multiple times this amount. So as big as our target goal is, and I don’t think anybody’s crowd-sourced more, it’s certainly not an unreasonable amount for what we’re offering.
The target amount will allow us to manufacture just 40,000 handsets, most of which I would imagine will already be claimed by those contributing $830 or more (only $600 if you do it the first day!). All of the money raised in this campaign will go directly towards manufacturing and shipping these devices, it won’t be used for other Canonical business or even future Ubuntu development. When you do the math, which I did, you see that it comes out to $800 per device to manufacture, and we’re only asking for $830 to get it (again, in the first 24 hours, you can get it below that cost). This is an effort to build a new class of superphone, not a way of making Canonical rich. If we reach our goal, you should have your Ubuntu Edge in hand sometime in May 2014!
I know that $830 is a lot of money, even $600 is a lot of money, but those aren’t the only ways you can help. In addition to giving smaller amounts in support of this campaign (for which there are other perks) you can help make it a success by spreading the word. No doubt it will be picked up by the usual online news sources, forums and blogs but let’s break it out of our usual Linux/FLOSS sphere.
So share links to the Indie GoGo campaign page on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Tell your friends, especially any tech savvy ones, about it. Send an email to your local newspaper, radio or television stations, you never know who might think it’s an interesting story (and wouldn’t you just love to see Ubuntu on TV?). Every person you tell about the campaign brings us one step closer to reaching our goal, and it doesn’t cost you a penny.