Open Ballot: Living on the Edge


Those of you that live under rocks in remote corners of the globe may not have heard about the Ubuntu Edge, but the rest of you will probably be pretty familiar with it. The distro maker are trying to use crowdfunding to create an Ubuntu smartphone: The phone sounds impressive with a whopping 4Gb of RAM and 128Gb of storage as well as a top notch screen and CPU.

If there's one thing more ambitious than the phone, it's the funding target. In order for the campaign to be funded, they need to raise $32,000,000 by 21st August. If they miss this target, then they don't get a penny and the phone doesn't get made. This is over three times the record for a successful crowdfunding project.* It's off to an impressive start, though, and raised $2'000'000 in just under eight hours, a crowfunding record. At the point of writing, the Edge has raised over $7'000'000, which is a huge achievement, but still leaves the project with a long way to go it it's ever going to become reality.

So, Our open ballot this fortnight is: do you think the Ubuntu Edge will reach its target? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and we'll read them out on Thursday's podcast.

*The pebble watch ($10,266,845). Star Citizen has currently raised almost $15,000,000 but as it hasn't reached its target yet, we're not including it here.

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Your comments

Why Kickstarter?

Surely if the phone is so good, it would be easy for Shuttleworth to get $32M of venture capital. It's not THAT much money in the tech world.

Remember when Eazel got $11M venture capital, just for making the Nautilus file manager? I wish the Edge phone well, but the funding approach raises questions.

I sure hope they do...

I never actually used Ubuntu, as openSUSE and Debian have covered all my desktop and laptop needs. I still use maemo on my phone (the legendary N900)...
This is the reason why I never loved or hated Ubuntu, though I admire the way they shaped linux perception in earlier versions.
Nonetheless, Ubuntu phone just seems great, the idea of connecting it to a monitor and having a(n almost) full blown linux desktop is something I would actually use. The interface seems intuitive, it is just beautiful and I just hope it will come with some repositories and not only this stupefying "markets"..
So, I sure hope they reach the target. Nonetheless, even though I would love to have one of those phones, 500-550 Euro for a phone is my ultimate limit and this option was not available any more (Note, I would never pay such an amount for a phone running android only or iOS)...
I guess it will be Jola for me then. Good luck canonical, it sure is a visionary idea.

Re: Why Kickstarter?

Ooops, I meant, why Indiegogo. Or why crowdfunding at all.


See title

Gauging popularity

I dont think Mark Shuttleworth intends to reach the goal. All he intends to do is gauge if it is worth going to the next step.
I am not sure what their set limit is but if they, for instance, reach 15 million, they will at least know there will be a chance of success and will proceed to the next (Ubuntu funded) step.

Taking our money is not the goal, gauging popularity and guaranteeing success is.

Hope they will...

Hope they will! By my wife which was not impressed with my spending hope they won't... Oh well....

see Yet Another Anonymous

see Yet Another Anonymous Penguin's message

Excellent publicity

They have probably had £32m worth of PR and advertising from the use of crowdfunding.

I hope no.

I'm really sick of Ubuntu. Ubuntu is the new Microsoft.

There are enough nerds with

There are enough nerds with too much time and money on their hands to keep it afloat. I would support it if I could afford to buy a flagship smartphone at its full (absurd) price but I can't say I'm a fan of the year waiting periods.

Maybe not

I'm interested in the device and even if the Ubuntu part never gets any where, it still has Android on board. I'm inclined to doubt it will reach its target now, the enthusiast money is in, but it needs mass appeal to go the rest of the way, and with all the cheapest options gone I'd be surprised if it gets another $25m.
Still, I could be wrong, perhaps there are a lot of wealthy people interested in a feature-heavy phone running an untried platform. Then again, all the wealthy mobile phone users already have iPhones, don't they?

Am I stupid, awesome or both?

Well, I considered it. First I looked at my bank balance, then thought better of it. Then changed my mind and opened my wallet. I have contributed in the first 24 hrs a whopping $600 for a piece of hardware that does not yet exist... but the idea does.

It's hard to tell if the crowd-sourcing initiative will be successful, as it is an awful lot of money, but for my money (literally), I saw a chance to have my voice heard by ordering a phone that will be a worthy replacement for my £15 2006 Nokia mobile phone (with colour screen and polyphonic ring tone)! I've not succumbed to the smartphone revolution yet, because I wanted something that was open, something that was Linux and something that would be designed to replace my desktop PC. And the Edge is it.

Shuttleworth is right to go down the crowd-sourcing route, because it offers the fans and users of Ubuntu a chance to have their say without any venture capitalist interference. It also will prove to the industry that there is demand for high quality top range phones because of the visible popularity shown in the fund-raising campaign. This was a clever move. The campaign is completely open, and success or fail, it's caught the eye of the worldwide media and industry who, until now, may not have been so bold as to announce a high-spec device without thorough testing and market-viability studies. This would have cost money, and may not have been successful. With Canonical simply proposing the Edge and asking "would you like us to make this?", people have answered with their wallets, "yes we would, and here's some money for you to get on with it."

For the next year, both my hand and bank account will be empty, but I've been waiting for an opportunity to visibly support Linux, and I think it's a chance I couldn't miss.

Sad NO

Whith current rate I don't see it happening, but I wish it would.

I really hope so!

This is precisely what I was hoping for when I took a punt on the G1, I was seriously tempted by the Nokia N900.

Unfortunately I think $600+ is just a touch too steep for many people.

I do think that some of comments above are spot on, Mark Shuttleworth would love to pull this off but it's really about getting cautious OEMs to sit up and take note. This proves that there really is a market for a truly unlocked mobile OS running Linux, this could be as revolutionary as MSDOS on the original IBM PC.


While 7 million dollars for 7 days of fundraising sounds good -- as if they're on track for a million a day, which would get them very close to 32 million dollars -- bear in mind that almost half of what they have right now was raised in the first day. At the current rate I predict they might raise a total of 15 million dollars.


My sadistic side wants to see them fail miserably, in fact every side of me wants to see that. Does no-one else see the irony that for the past 18 months Canonical have been proving they don't care about their (so-called) communities opinions and they will do what they want no matter what their users think, and now they expect the same community members to stump up $32 million to fuel Mark Shuttleworth's ego. I think anyone who pays a complete phone price into this has got more money than sense

You must be joking.

There are well established ways of raising capital for risky ventures: sell equity in the company or sell debt via bonds or other instruments. Both give known rights in exchange for the investment. What does this offer in return for your hard earned?

Don't go near it.


As great as it would be to have an open source Linux based mobile device, this one is not it. I am thinking that they won't make it. I am not going to help. Sitting this one out.

Probably not

But I wouldn't be too surprised if Mr. Shuttleworth might steps in with a big contribution at the end.

Also, it kinda doesn't matter. The indiegogo has provided them with a huge amount of publicity and people who would not have otherwise heard of Ubuntu phone are getting to see it.

Of course making the goal is a bigger win. Improves their bargaining position with carrier and manufacturers no end. Also increases the chances of a decent sized app-pool by the time the consumer-level devices launch.

But yea, not making the goal is just a smaller win, not a loss.

I'm by no means an Ubuntu fanboy and wouldn't let Ubuntu anywhere near my desktop PC but... their phone OS interests me. When they've got it all fully working, were I choosing between iOS, Android and this, I'd probably go for the Ubuntu one, all else being equal. And the convergence angle makes it all the more interesting; being able to plug this into a monitor and use it as a(n admittedly rather weak) desktop PC is appealing. A tad clumsy as they're currently imagining it but I hope they get the opportunity to improve that side of it.


My kingdom for an edit button.

Probably not

My money, or lack there of, is on the Replicant project.

Win or Lose, its a winner

The funding target is a record amount to be achieved in a very short time...for a limited number of white elephant products.

On the off chance that this does get fully funded there will be an intense developer commitment required from Canonical to deliver the product and a sudden awakening for the vendors, carriers and a gadget hungry community.

Even if it does not get fully funded Canonical still win because of the publicity achieved, the resulting demonstration of public interest, and the stimulation of developer activity.

Hope it does

Yep hope it does met the target as competition is always a healthy thing. Best of luck Ubuntu with your phone.

Would it be better then my N9?

I have already a Linux Phone. Its the Nokia N9 and it is a real Linux Phone.
It has Xorg, init.d, busybox shell, ssh, rsync, firefox, aptitude, ...
The only problem is the missing hardware-keyboard.

Ubuntu Phone is a step backwards, but after nokia going the microsoft route its a possible next step. But there are also Sailfish and Tizen. I'll see what happens till End of 2013 and try to keep my N9 in a good condition.

600,- is realy a littlebit expensive for a kikstarter-phone.

Another attack on freedom by Canonical

This is another attack on freedom and the free software / open standards community by Canonical, in the Ubuntu outfit for a change. The big difference this time is that businessman Mark Shuttleworth wants to risk someone else's money gambling on a new toy. It is, from a business perspective, an excellent idea - he gets total ownership of a closed-standard, non-free system and the community pays to develop it.

Ethically it is as shitty as Mark Shuttleworth has ever stooped.

If anyone has money to donate to the development of new technology, especially speculative ventures, there are far better business investments for private shareholders and there are far better open standard / open source projects with similar aims. There are far more ethical places to give your money, with communication and education benefits in communities worldwide.

Don't see how

23 days left and they have only earned < 7.5 Million. Taking into account that this growth was supplemented with the initial huge bump from exposure on all tech news outlets. (It was on HN for about 2 days), as well as the changing in price tier on day 2.

If they are to make the 32 million target, I don't see where the backing is going to come from. The numbers of backers per day is surely on a downward curve and even if it stays as is it won't be enough.

They have already changed the scope of the thing once, so I'm not ruling out some sort of company investment for the final 10 million or something, but I really don't think Ubuntu have that sort of money.

It was too much to begin with, but perhaps an exciting (and overly ambitious) project like this going to require that level of funding.

That is a lot of money to pay for something which is still vapourware.

An indegogo querie

I thought with indegogo they kept the money even if they didn't make the target. I thought that was the big differentiator between it and kickstarter.

Need to test the concept...

...out in real-life, and see if this really is the next revolution in computing. I use my desktop simply for word processing, spreadsheets, email, internet & a bit of photo editing - most modern phones are more than easily capable of running this kind of software, so why have a separate desktop? You could drop your smartphone into a dock, which then connects up your display, keyboard, mouse, ethernet, backup drives, printers and use a proper* desktop. Maybe you could even have a cheap tablet-sized touch screen with speakers and a docking port on the back for when you want to do some browsing on the sofa?

*depends what you think of unity of course.

@ Mrmjb

"I thought with indegogo they kept the money even if they didn't make the target. I thought that was the big differentiator between it and kickstarter."

If that were the case, then I wouldn't have put up a single penny. Last bullet point on the Ubuntu edge page: "Zero cost to backers if the campaign is unsuccessful."

Blah blah Ubuntu, blah blah

Blah blah Ubuntu, blah blah phone blah.

No - but I wish it would

I can see where Ubuntu are going with this, and why they have tried Crowd Funding it. It may be a huge amount of money, an amount I doubt Canonical can invest themselves. Crowd Funding it allows them to produce the product without risking the business, or having to give away a big chunk to a venture capitalist.

If you can raise the money without needing to sell a portion of the business, then that is a good move.

The product looks good. Really good. So good I've been checking my pennies... and came up a bit short (wrong quarter for me Mark :( ). But that isn't a phone, it is a decent spec computing platform in a portable case. Which is open, and will hopefully have the documentation and community to allow users to put other "distros" on there.

If it gets funded, and the phone gets built, it will send a big message about the open source community as a whole. It is a mainstream step - something that would get noticed and talked about in the conversation, not as a footnote.

But, £32M in one month is a hell of a lot of cash.

Money Down

I have just slapped down $775 but I am treating this as a vote for the product - as per my previous post.
But Spangwiches could be right and Mr Shuttleworth will step in at the end and make up the difference, I will then be a proud owner of the 1st issue edge.
Actually that puts a smile on my face. (but how am I going to explain it to the missus. (Honey!! I have a new present for you!)) :-D

It won't be free software...

..which makes them just another company peddling restricted goods.

So, not really interested.

For Sure!

I've made my contribution and (of course) looking forward to get one of these little bad babies in my hands by next year.

I'm really sad about the ones who burn it at the stake. If you don't want one, don't by one. This is an amazing thing for Linux.

A little space for innovation and experimentation? Please?

I hope so!

This looks amazing. A really desirable product, just a pity its a bit (read 'a lot') out of my price range. Good for Canonical for trying to push bounaries , and from what I've seen ubuntu for phones has the potential to become a serious contender in the phone OS world. Good luck Canonical!

Who will buy 100 phones taht don't exist?

I've noticed over the last week that only 5 of the 100 enterprise level perks have been taken. My question is, What company will invest $80,000 into a phone and workshops for their employees when there's no documentation for the phone and no guarantee that the phone will integrate into their current systems? To get this kind of money Canonical needs enterprise backing, and so far it doesn't look like many companies are willing to take the risk with Canonical. If they're going to make it, they'll need to provide something that can convince companies this investment is worth the risk. So far they've advertised a great consumer device but have failed to explain why this would be a useful workplace device. Good luck to Canonical, but I don't think the next 20 days will change much.


Don't want.

Before this I had never heard of Indiegogo or any other crowd funding sites with the exception of Kickstarter. I had a look at Wikipedias "Comparison of crowd funding services" and was suprised at how many there were and their scope. There are services for Cosmetic surgery and for Pornography. I blame the internet.

Not free? seriously?

I was pretty excited until I saw them say a hackable system wasn't one of their priorities right now. I thought one of the points of crowdfunding tech is that we get an openness and pureness we couldn't get funded otherwise. Unlike bloated locked down Android phones out there.

It's a powerful advertisment

Well, I for one have had my head turned by this telephone's "rakishly chamfered edges". Surely not enough telephonic communication devices exhibit such a jaunty attitude.


Sadly I can't see it reaching the target. The pledging has really come to a standstill and the target goal is still miles away.

In search of lost times

I foresee a collapse in pledges and no Ubuntu edge, Andrew should avoid making financial decisions when inebriated and Ben will be travelling over water, Mr Berlusconi will be found guilty and Real Madrid will win the Champions league.

Are you all serious?

Really guys,
Do you think they (Ubuntu/Shuttleworth) really expect to reach this goal?
None of us do . . . . .

They are merely testing the waters.

No - the stats show that it won't

It was pretty obvious after the first week that all the fan boys had donated which amounted to about $5m. Some crowed sourcing campaigns speed up as they get more exposer. However, with the Edge the message got out in days to the core contributing fan base and now we will see a steady decline in contributions. Shame - the phone looks awesome. I handed over my $625!

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