The Ubuntu Edge and the tech media

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
The Ubuntu Edge and the tech media
While waiting in line at the Google event yesterday, media folks talk about all sorts of things. One thing that was discussed at length was what would breakfast with Sundar Pichai be like if he were actually going to cook breakfast for us.

Then we weighed that factor as a bearing to judge in favor or, or against the Nexus 7 joking, “The new Nexus 7 tablet is amazing, but there were no pancakes or French toast, so I give it 2 out of 5 stars.” Then one of us yelled to everyone in line to send a Google+ message or Tweet to Sundar with a breakfast order.

One topic that came up only briefly was the Indiegogo campaign that Canonical has underway to raise money for a Formula 1-esque device running on the Ubuntu mobile operating system, the Ubuntu Edge. I found it odd that in a line of a lot of geeks, a few nerds and other tech-media, there would not be more talk about the campaign that had managed to raise about $3 million in its first day and another $2 million through its second day and into the third day.

First, you should know something about the tech media at events like what we saw at Google's announcement for the Nexus 7, Chromecast and Android 4.3. If you read regularly, then you know the cast of tech players and bloggers that are invited to these events. We are gadget geeks with varying degrees of backgrounds or interests that cover mobile tech or IT. A few are technology journalists that get deep into the technology, others approach it from a user experience perspective and some are merely correspondents affiliated with main-stream media outlets who do not really know much about any technology at all.

This event was not super-huge in terms of the number of media folks present. Less than 100 media people, plus maybe another 50-75 Google employees of varying capacities were on hand as well. The mix of us from the tech world was definitely diverse enough for me to perform an ad hoc survey while we waited in line for the doors to open.


I first asked every person in line if they knew about Canonical’s Ubuntu Edge campaign. Almost everyone did. One person responded that they knew about it, but that they were going to wait for a review unit. Since the probability of review units is close to zero, I chalked that up to that person not knowing what they were talking about. That one anomaly aside, everyone responded positivity and rightly so, Canonical broke records on Indiegogo its first day of funding and if it can maintain the momentum, it will shatter records in the crowd sourced funding realm that will not soon be surpassed.

However, when I asked them if anyone had bought-in to actually acquire an Ubuntu Edge, all but one said no. I was amazed. In this line were some mobile enthusiasts, knowledgeable technologists and personable folks that present information well, yet none of them bought-in except for one.

Why does this dismay me? Because, I was the one out of the whole line. When I wrote up the article introducing the campaign a couple days ago, I had already bought-in as one of the coveted early adopters for a $600 device.  I discovered the campaign when it was only an hour or so old thanks to Twitter of all things.  I saw an alert from someone I followed expressing shock at the audacity of the campaign, $32 million, who do those people think they are?!


When I saw the plans for the final form factor and intended functionality, I won’t lie, I was totally impressed and I was thrilled that I caught the project in the first couple hours of the fund raising launch.  I was fortunate to be one of the first few hundred people to secure a spot for an Ubuntu Edge when (if) it finally makes it into production and is shipped next spring.

Am I developer in my spare time? Nope. When I’m not writing articles here I am writing papers for school and feeding a hopeless gadget craving which I self-fund through buying and selling through various venues.  I do need to take a break though, as I have eight smartphones within reach right now. I shall invoke the pun, eight is enough (for now).

The alluring factor for me was the fact that I will be able to run a full Ubuntu desktop simply by hooking up a cable to the Edge which will run the show. I have used Ubuntu on laptops and found the experience to be completely acceptable. Might it replace my current Windows environment? The jury is still out on that as I have also been heavily using a Chromebook, assessing its strengths and weaknesses. The Ubuntu Edge is taking the whole idea of converged computing from a different angle, yes it will use the cloud, yes it will work as a thin client over apps many of us want to use, but it is also something you can hold and control – a far cry from what happens when you throw things into the cloud.


This device could be the true disruption some folks have been pining for. The current wildcards are specific components of the hardware. We don’t yet know what the final processor will be and that is simply because whatever that “fastest possible” CPU may be, it is not yet built. We know that it will have worldwide 4G connectivity which is possible with solutions now available from Qualcomm.

As far as functionality is concerned and being able to plug in and use desktop features while using the device, we know that will work because Canonical has shown us the proof of concept using today’s hardware. Incorporating that feature set on leading edge hardware is only going to be an improvement.


The ideas floating around the specifications are the “minimum,” and that is important to remember. There will be a minimum of 4GB of RAM, there will be at least 128GB of storage, and the rest of the list is the starting point. When you consider the tiered pricing Canonical has in place now, the deal is unbeatable. Even if the only option left is the $830 main price, the Ubuntu Edge is a bargain and Canonical expects to provide support for the device for at least six years.  Think about what you get with that commitment.

First, you have a smart device with greater specs than anything that will exist in the price range. Today, a 64GB iPhone 5 already costs more and cannot touch what even the proof-of-concept Ubuntu hardware is doing now, and the iPhone 5S is not going to pose a threat either. Yes, it costs a bit more than a Samsung Galaxy S4 and while Android powered flagship handsets are viable competitors to such a project, I seriously doubt that Samsung or other OEMs are going to raise the bar that dramatically over the next year. On top of that, you will have a device that will also serve as a total communications and work platform, smartphone and desktop, no holds barred. It is not a bad proposition.


When Canonical made this a crowd funded venture, it has set out to prove what is truly possible. If you are a developer or an enthusiast, but cannot afford the $830 asking price, or one of the lower tiered options, pool your resources with a friend or colleague. You can get two for $1,400 which is only $700 each. If you really want it to tinker with, then team up with some friends to just get one and share it.  If you do not like it, you will certainly be able to sell the equipment for a notable margin higher than what you bought it for (in fact, one guy started his own Indiegogo campaign so he could fund his desire to support the Ubuntu Edge campaign).

Is the Ubuntu Edge for everyone? Of course not. In fact, the argument could be made that the Ubuntu Edge does not really need to happen. However, when you put together how all the pieces of this initiative come together it makes for an awesome project. If the goal is reached, will Canonical be able to deliver on its promise, I think the answer is yes.



2. Shatter

Posts: 2036; Member since: May 29, 2013

This device is the major change the phone market needs. This phone is a level above smartphones, anyone that wants lots of horsepower and functionality in their phone will be getting one of these.

3. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2475; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

Well I commend you Max for being one of the few tech writers out there that just truly admires technology in any form. I wish there was more people out there like you. It is a great project that I hope reaches it's funding goal. We need to have more competition in the mobile space, both in terms of hardware and software. I believe Canonical can bring that to the table. Maybe once the first Ubuntu Edge is released and people get to try it then they might be on board to help fund the eventual successor. I also wish the same for the Jolla, Firefox, and Tizen operating systems. I hope I get the chance to try them all out someday. I've seen videos of them online and I feel they all have true potential to be something great.

5. MistB

Posts: 581; Member since: Jul 07, 2012

Really hope this goes through, cutting edge innovative hardware with a lot of promise. This could be the breathing space the mobile space needs since Android came onto the scene and with the first IPhone, 2014 will a blockbuster year to say the least and this is actually the hardware that will be the most exciting imo.

7. mottykels

Posts: 387; Member since: May 15, 2013

This is an old news

8. jellmoo

Posts: 2645; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Honestly, it looks like a great product in theory. They have a solid design in mind, look to want to make it as premium as possible, and they are incredibly ambitious with what they are trying to do. I'm a fan of Ubuntu and I sincerely wish them success. That being said... 1) They are not a hardware company. I'm sure that they have hired some great minds for the project, but they are a software company looking to make an incredibly advanced piece of software. The inherent difficulties will be astounding, and their ability to put this out in a timely manner would greatly surprise me. 2) Do they have the ability to fully support the device at the level they will need to. Will Canonical be able to support their ongoing Ubuntu Enterprise, coupled with Ubuntu Touch and now Android users? 3) $32 million is a *lot* of money. They got out of the gate strongly, but can they keep that up for a prolonged period of time to get to that magic number? It's an unheard of amount in crowd funding thus far, and Canonical is not exactly a household name. I like the idea, I like the approach and I like the brand. But it still looks like an incredible longshot, and most likely a logistical nightmare if it does make it out of the design stage.

9. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2475; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

With regards to your second point, I would think (and this is just my opinion, I'm not stating any facts or known information) that Canonical would be able to support the ecosystem as a whole because of this whole idea of convergence. So, whenever they would be working on an update for the desktop OS then they would concurrently be updating the mobile OS as well because they are dependent on each other.

10. MorePhonesThanNeeded

Posts: 645; Member since: Oct 23, 2011

One question do they have a prototype device that actually running or anything? I'm all for ideas and theories but without any sort of device that is supposed to be bringing top tier parts and 4GB of RAM and other such niceties, I want to see some tangible evidence. I saw the photos of what looks like a slab like device and it has a weird trapezoidal thing going on, but little else. No specifications of any kind, in all of the stories that I searched for on this site. Crowd funding is a bit like begging to me, I understand that it's community supported but what if it doesn't pan out then what? Humans have a long history of getting bent out of shape when it comes to money and lost investments. I like the sound of all in one device, but unless Ubuntu hits the market like a meteorite this is going to dig a massive hole in someone's bottom line. People are dug into their respective OS trenches, developers are devoted to their bottomlines because it's where the consumers are and consumers buy what they see everyone has and what's being pushed in stores. Canonical and Ubuntu are both completely unknown to the average joe, sure the technologically inclined would know about it but technologically inclined aren't the biggest market for something of this magnitude. I'd say it would be better to start out small and be like a niche product and then seep their way into the mainstream when the timing is right. If they were ready to deliver last year when W8 stumbled out of the gate, they might have had a great time in the limelight and even won lots of curiosity. I wish them well, idea sounds great but they've got a hell of a battle ahead of them. Windows is a juggernaut and Android is already doing the multiple device one OS thing, so Canonical will have to wow and knock it out of the park to get any leeway. I find the all in one phone/PC incredibly interesting but there is just too many roadblocks ahead of them. I can guarantee we'll see some lawsuits, it's the nature of the beast, there's always someone willing to take money to do unscrupulous things. Good luck and God speed to Canonical.

11. CX3NT3_713

Posts: 2362; Member since: Apr 18, 2011

Ubuntu is a horrible OS..js , phone specs are killer tho

12. taikucing unregistered

Intel core i3 please.... And the capability to install windows 7 / 8 into it.

13. megadirk

Posts: 33; Member since: Jul 28, 2011

People are bringing up some very good points in relation to the obstacles that Canonical is going to have to overcome being a first time hardware developer. That being said... I think one of the biggest obstacles here is the user base that is going to be interested in funding this project. If you got in on the ground floor and we're able to snag one of the phones at $600, that's still a lot of money for something you MIGHT have in your hand a year from now. I for one normally fund my next phone by selling my old phone, subsidized pricing and whatever deal a retailer has going at the time. So it basically ends up being free. Now I would still have no problem paying more money for a new phone that is as advanced as this one, but to have it a year from now? Gadget lovers tend to get into buying more that one type of gadget. I'm already putting aside funds for one of the new consoles coming out this fall and just got done upgrading core components for my PC. I was ok with investing money into those things because I have seen them, read reviews on them, etc. Plopping 600 big ones on something that sounds amazing with a promise that it will happen from a company doing it for the first time is a big risk for me and others like me. Final point, if I had $600+ laying around I would have funded this in a heartbeat. I think it's a great and wonderful thing that they are doing and everything they have planned looks amazing. I will most likely be jealous when the first units start rolling out and I am reading reviews about it. That's just it though, I'm going to have to read a lot about it before I hand over $$ for the full price of a phone, especially when other options like the Nexus are available for half the price that aren't tied to a carrier.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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