Ubuntu Edge: The Roar of the Crowd

The Pebble Smartwatch’s Kickstarter campaign set a fundraising goal of $100,000; in just two hours, that goal was reached. In 28 hours, the team hit the $1,000,000 donation mark. By the end of their 37-day campaign, they had raised $10,266,845, becoming the most highly funded crowdfunding campaign ever. 15 months later, that record was bested by an Indiegogo campaign for the Ubuntu Edge smartphone, with six days still left to go. However, unlike the Pebble Smartwatch campaign, the Edge campaign was not to finish a success.

The Ubuntu Edge

The first thing to know about this phone is that it dual-boots both Android OS and Ubuntu. The second thing to know, even cooler than the first, is that when plugged into a computer, it will boot up as though it were a PC, altering the interface of your phone and transferring the display to your monitor. Canonical, Ubuntu’s creator and the force behind the launch of the campaign, says the goal of the product is to transform the way the world thinks about portable PCs by introducing the world to the fact that there is technology available to make PCs as portable as wallets. Simply plugging into your monitor with an Ubuntu Edge could grant you immediate access to a fully functioning workstation anywhere in the world, complete with Dual-LTE speeds—more on that later.

But while the capabilities of smartphones today are generations ahead of those of the computers that came out 15 years ago, they simply do not stack up to the potential power of the modern desktop. RAM of 1–2GB is not going to cut it in a workstation in the age of information, which is why the Ubuntu Edge was designed to have 4GB of RAM, not to mention a total of 128GB of internal storage—twice the largest available storage size of the iPhone 5. As for networking, the Ubuntu Edge design gave it Dual LTE and GSM connectivity, so it would always be connected to LTE speeds throughout Europe and America, as opposed to the single LTE antenna of iPhone 5 and Samsung S4, which both experience the occasional dead zone.

Cosmetically, the phone would have been made out of a single piece of textured metal and would have broken away from the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S4, which use varying types of Gorilla Glass. According to Mark Shuttleworth, the Benevolent Dictator for Life of the Ubuntu community, the phone design equipped it with Sapphire Glass to cover its 4.5-inch screen, which cannot be scratched by anything short of a pocket full of diamonds. The camera on the back optimized low-light images and, instead of having a higher megapixel count, had increased color accuracy and effects similar to that found in more professional cameras. What’s more, everything mentioned had a target price of only $695, which would have been $55 cheaper than the S4 at Best Buy and $154 cheaper than the iPhone 5 at the Apple Store.

The Campaign

The campaign, which began on July 22, 2013 and culminated on August 21 with a record-breaking final bank of $12,813,501, saw companies such as Bloomberg taking large $80,000 stakes in the production of the phone. But this was not enough to reach the $32 million goal marker. The reasoning behind crowdfunding this phone instead of going straight to a phone distributor was that companies simply will not pony up to develop a new technology if there is no precedent for its commercial success. The Indiegogo campaign aimed to prove that there was a world market for this technology and had high hopes of both making the phone commercially available and forcefully shoving the modern smartphone through to its next stage of evolution.

But there are a few takeaways to be gleaned from every unsuccessful venture. According to Mark Shuttleworth’s latest update on the campaign, while the amount pledged didn’t begin to approach the goal of $32 million, the fact that this became the most highly funded crowdfund in history has piqued the interest of several major phone carriers who were on the fence and has convinced them to support Ubuntu, with many of them signing with the Ubuntu Carrier Advisory Group. Shuttleworth ended the post by hinting that sometime in the future his team might take a crack at this campaign again once Ubuntu smartphones start hitting the shelves in 2014 and Ubuntu becomes a more common household name—for now, techies will have to hold their collective breath. Regardless of these provisions, the campaign caused enough of a buzz in the global community to initiate a few discussions behind the closed doors of even larger companies, and only time will tell if this campaign was a true failure or a masked success.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons