Mark Shuttleworth wants to raise $32M for Ubuntu phone


— 2:04 PM on July 22, 2013

Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth really wants to make Ubuntu smartphones happen. He wants to so much, as a matter of fact, that he's started an Indiegogo funding campaign for a premium Ubuntu handset. The funding goal? 32 million dollars.

To be fair, the Ubuntu Edge does looks like a pretty sweet device. The pre-production renders show something like the lovechild of a Microsoft Surface and an iPhone 5, with slanted, chamfered edges and a body "crafted from a single piece of textured metal." The projected specs include a 4.5" 1280x720 display, a multi-core CPU, 4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage capacity, dual LTE, Bluetooth 4, NFC, and an eight-megapixel rear camera. Oh, and the device is supposed to dual-boot Ubuntu and Android.

The whole thing does sound a tad over-ambitious, though. Canonical's plan is to raise $32 million by August 21 and to have a phone produced and ready for delivery by May 2014. A contribution of at least $830 entitles you to an Ubuntu Edge phone once the device is released. Anything below that, and you'll have to pony up however much the Ubuntu folks charge at launch.

So far, the Ubuntu Edge has received $557,693 in pledges. As with Kickstarter, the funds will only actually make it to the project if the funding goal is achieved. In other words, anything less than $32 million, and Shuttleworth & Co. get nada. Here's why the funding goal is so high, according to the project page:

It's all about scale. To offer the final product at a competitive price we need to produce enough volume to bring the unit costs down. At the same time, we want to be selecting parts that are not yet proven for multi-million-unit production. This is the balance we found. A lower funding target might seem more likely to succeed, but the individual perk amounts would have to be significantly higher. We believe this funding target and these perk levels give us the best chance of success.

Well, uh, I guess we'll see how things shake out.

I'm all for diversity in the smartphone world—especially when that diversity involves good hardware and well thought-out software. The Android ecosystem is crowded with entirely too many clunky devices that weigh down the stock Android OS with needless clutter. Still, $32 million is a lot of scratch for a first-gen device based on a still-unproven platform.

   
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