Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, is launching a crowdfunding campaign to finance its first Ubuntu smartphone, the Ubuntu Edge. For the company to succeed with its plans, it'll need to raise $32 million in just under a month. The Ubuntu Edge will be a 4.5-inch 720p smartphone with a multi-core processor, 4GB of RAM, and an unprecedented 128GB of storage. It'll be LTE-ready and run the touch-optimized Ubuntu Linux, of course, which we've had the opportunity to play with a few times over the past months. Users committing to either $600 today or $830 thereafter will get an Ubuntu Edge in May 2014.
As we noted when the device leaked earlier today, the Edge is a harshly angular device, similar to Microsoft's Surface in aesthetics. The device will take full advantage of Ubuntu's ability to scale. Canonical says the Edge can "be your main PC anywhere." The company has been focused on what it calls "convergence devices" for some time now, starting with its Ubuntu for Android strategy, which would allow an Android phone to become an Ubuntu PC when plugged into a display, and culminating in an all-out assault on the TV, PC, tablet, and smartphone space that it announced earlier this year.
The Ubuntu Edge will run both Linux and Android
The device will also run Android when it first ships in a "dual boot" configuration, meaning you'll be able to choose between Android of linux. When running Android, the Edge will offer access to Ubuntu through Canonical's existing Ubuntu for Android app. Shortly after launch, the company says it'll push out a free software update that adds this desktop integration to Ubuntu mobile as well. "That’s the real goal we’re working towards," says the company's IndieGogo page, "at that point you’ll have a leading-edge smartphone that runs Ubuntu and Android, both of which can also run a fully integrated Ubuntu desktop OS. What other phone can match that?"
Ubuntu has a large community that's both vocal and loyal — its user base across PC and tablets is at least 10 million. It'll need that community's support if it's to be successful in its endeavor. To reach its lofty crowdfunding goal, it'll need to receive around 40,000 pledges to buy its device. The record-breaking Kickstarter campaign that funded the Pebble smartwatch reached just over $10 million with pledges for 85,000 units, more than double Canonical's goal in device volumes, but way short in financial terms.
There's no real precedent for such a project — we're only aware of two startups that have tried to utilize crowdsourcing for a mobile device, and neither were successful. Can the established Ubuntu brand change that? Or are we about to see perhaps the most high-profile crowdfunding failure yet? Less than an hour into the campaign, the company has received over $120,000 in orders. If it keeps gaining pledges at this rate, Canonical will reach its goal. The
Update: Just five hours in, Canonical has already reached over $1 million in funding for the Ubuntu Edge. So far, most funds have come from users pledging to purchase the device at its introductory price of $600.