A Lost Opportunity

A sad thing happened today. The crowd-funded Ubuntu Edge project failed to meet its target of $32,000,000 by deadline, which means that nobody will be getting an Ubuntu Edge handset, because they won't be getting made. This is a huge shame.

Ubuntu Edge

Not expensive

The primary reason that many didn't support the project was because they felt $695 was too expensive for a mobile phone. I disagree. At the present time $695 equates to £444, and that is significantly less than a Samsung Galaxy S4 or iPhone 5 costs. Not only would Ubuntu Edge have been cheaper, it represented something genuinely new and innovative in the market place.

The low down

Ubuntu have been producing an excellent Linux distribution for years (a free alternative to Microsoft Windows or Apple OS X), and now they are working on a phone OS. Of course, any newcomer to the mobile OS market will have a hard time building something better than Android or iOS. This wouldn't have been a problem affecting the Ubuntu Edge though, since it would have dual booted both Ubuntu and Android, and I would have had probably had mine running Android, at least until Ubuntu Mobile matured. It's nice to have a choice though, wouldn't you say?


Where things got really interesting is that the handset would also have run the full Ubuntu desktop OS if you plugged in a monitor and connected a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Suddenly, the phone becomes the computer: true device convergence. Many other companies have worked on similar solutions, and none of them have really worked. The primary issue is always weak hardware. This is where Ubuntu Edge would have been different.

The hardware

Apart from the lovely design and the sapphire crystal screen which only diamonds can scratch, the Ubuntu Edge would have had quad core processing power, 4Gb RAM and 128Gb storage. It would have been a usable computer. A computer that you can carry in your pocket and use as a mobile communications device. It would have been way more powerful than the far more expensive and far less flexible Galaxy S4 or iPhone 5.

Ubuntu Edge back

No compromise

Where are the compromises in such a device? For mobile use, it would run an industry standard mobile OS in Android (or optionally you could support a newcomer in Ubuntu Mobile). For desktop use, it would run an industry standard desktop OS in Ubuntu Linux. File storage would be shared between the different operating systems. It's having your cake and eating it. With cream.

All this for £444! Not to mention the exclusivity of having a device that has been built for a community and would not have been available immediately for mass market consumption. It was a bargain!

I put my money in without hesitation. It'll be refunded of course, but I don't want it back, I want to see a great idea become a reality. How else can we challenge the super corporations? Companies with more money than many countries of the world, dictating to us how we should use technology, and funnelling us into their high-profit app stores that are conveniently exempted from standard consumer rights. This much power is not healthy and should not be wielded by the likes of Apple, Google or Microsoft, who have all proven themselves to be untrustworthy.

Now the ideas will be stolen and made by a big corporate...
...and then people will buy it - for way more money!

Supporting a project like Ubuntu Edge would have been a vote against constriction of digital freedom. It would have been a vote for the little guy. The underdog. It would have been revolutionary. Frankly, it would have just made good business sense.

Ubuntu would have shared their code and ideas with the world. Now the big corporates, who will have seen the more than $12 million that was raised, will simply steal the idea and put it into production with their unendingly deep pockets, and ensure that every bit of the design is patented, protected, and restricted. It will be sold for way more than £444, mark my words. And because it has an Apple or Google logo on it, people will queue up to throw their money at it.

David Hurst Posted by David Hurst on

What do you think?