The Ubuntu Edge and the tech media
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 PhoneArena.com 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.
IMPROMPTU SURVEY OF THE MEDIA
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?!
THE UBUNTU EDGE IS THE FUTURE
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.
DISRUPTIVE? YOU BET!
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.
YES, THE SPECS ARE GOING TO REACH NEW LEVELS
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.
THE UBUNTU EDGE REPRESENTS WHAT IS POSSIBLE
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.