Ubuntu Edge Smartphone Sets Record £20.8m Crowdsourcing Target

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Canonical wants £20.8m to build 40,000 Ubuntu superphones

Canonical has launched a crowdsourced funding campaign to raise $32 million (£20.8m) in the next thirty days to build the Ubuntu Edge, a “Formula One device” that will showcase the Ubuntu smartphone operating system.

If the target is reached, it will be a record amount for a crowdsourcing project, overtaking the $10,266,845 raised by the Pebble smartwatch on Kickstarter. Canonical has plans to build 40,000 smartphones initially, with interested parties paying $830 to secure their device.

Enterprises can also get involved by pledging $80,000 for 100 smartphones, along with access to workshops and training when the Ubuntu Edge is shipped, most likely in May 2014.

Ubuntu Mobile OS

Ubuntu Edge (2)The Linux-based Ubuntu Mobile OS was first announced in January with the promise it would support the same desktops applications used on a Ubuntu PC. Ubuntu smartphones can switch between environments seamlessly and connect their handset to monitor for a full PC experience.

Canonical has said the first Ubuntu smartphones will go on sale in October, and in theory any Android-based smartphone can run the platform as they share the same Linux kernel and key drivers.

However, it wants to build the Ubuntu Edge ‘superphone’ to test out new mobile technologies and become a catalyst for the “next generation of personal of personal computing.”

“In the car industry, Formula 1 provides a commercial testbed for cutting-edge technologies,” the company said on its funding page. “The Ubuntu Edge project aims to do the same for the mobile phone industry – to provide a low-volume, high-technology platform, crowdfunded by enthusiasts and mobile computing professionals.

“A pioneering project that accelerates the adoption of new technologies and drives them down into the mainstream.”

Ubuntu Edge

Canonical said it will use the best available components at the time of manufacture, although some aspects have already been decided upon. The Ubuntu Edge will be crafted from amorphous metal and will have a display of 4.5 inches, which will be selected on the basis of colour accuracy, resolution and dynamic range.

In order to power desktop PC applications, the Ubuntu Edge will have the fastest available multi-core processor, along with at least 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. It will also use silicon-anode tech to boost battery life, along with an 8GB camera, NFC compatibility and support for LTE networks.

Canonical noted the crowdfunding target is so high because the costs associated with creating a smartphone are substantial, but the price of production should come down as more units are made.

Ambitious target

“Setting such an ambitious target means a more competitive price per device,” said the company, which says it has already spoken to manufacturers and operators, while it also has a team in Taiwan, where the majority of manufacturing will take place.

“We’re well prepared for the journey ahead,” it said, but also claimed that if the funding target is not met, the Ubuntu Edge will not be made and the future of the operating system will be with other manufacturers.

At the time of writing, the project had achieved $3,311,524  with 30 days remaining. In any case, it could prove popular. A TechWeekEurope poll in January revealed our readers wanted to try out Ubuntu Mobile OS more than Windows Phone, BlackBerry 10 and Firefox OS, although it trailled behind the most popular answer, the MeeGo-based Sailfish OS.

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Ubuntu Edge

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Ubuntu Edge