Ubuntu Edge: A $32 million campaign to create 'the future of the phone'

  • @jjvincent

Building on their vision of 'Convergence' as the future of computing, Canonical - the creators of open-source OS Ubunutu -  have launched a new Indiegogo campaign to create the Edge: a smartphone 'for the future' that will double up as desktop PC.

The new handset will come with dual-chip LTE for high-speed internet 4G in both Europe and the US, and will sport at least 128GB internal storage and 4GB of RAM. Although the processor has yet to be announced Ubuntu promise that they will use the fastest available on launch to make the phone "a potent little PC when docked."

Introducing the project in a YouTube video Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth described the project as not only a new direction for phone hardware, but also a new model of financing for the phone industry, that was better compared with car manufacturers:

“With the car industry we have Formula One to test new technology. But the mobile industry has nothing like that – there’s no premium segment for expert drivers. It’s like everyone is driving mass-produced sedans."

As a fixed funding project the device is an all-or-nothing, and without $32m raised by August 21 the Edge will not go ahead. Although the funding currently stands at over $3 million, complaints have been raised about the Edge's somewhat erratic price points - a $20 donation gets you 'founder' status (and little besides), which jumps up to $600 (a limited 24 hour offer) and $830 to actually get your hands on a handset.

The Edge will also have 4.50inch display, with a focus on "colour accuracy and brightness" rather than resolution, and the glass screen will be replaced by sapphire crystal - "a material so hard you'll need diamonds in your pockets to scratch it."

The handset will also dual boot both Ubuntu and Android, meaning any apps you've purchased from Google will remain of use, and will come with an 8-megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel camers facing from the front.

The specs for the Edge - as well as the teased images of the handset- are certainly impressive, but it's Ubuntu's idea of 'Convergence' that's most integral to the project. Offering a mobile that doubles up as a PC has failed in the past (the Motorola Atrix was a notable example - shipping back in 2011 with a tiny dual-core 1GHz Cortex A9 processor), though Canonical are confident that the Edge's higher specs and the smooth crossover between the Ubuntu operating system for mobile and desktop will make all the difference.

The project's certainly nothing if not ambitious - if it makes the $32 million mark it will have tripled the current highest crowd-sourcing fund, $10m for the Pebble smart watch - and Shuttleworth describes it as "a crazy, beautiful idea."

"But if there are enough of us out there – enough enthusiasts who want the ultimate in performance, storage, screen, battery and bandwith, then the Ubuntu Edge will be the catalyst for awesome innovation and a taste of the future of the phone."

There may be enough enthusiasts to fund the project (though they'll have to keep donating $1m each day until the project ends), but whether the project could ever live up to it's own hype remains to be seen.