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Monday, July 22, 2013

Ubuntu Aims High With A Risky Crowdfunded Smartphone Project

​ Ubuntu Touch
Ubuntu has announced an Indiegogo project to build a smartphone . Assuming their backers commit to $32 million over the next thirty days, they’re going to build a smartphone. And not just any smartphone, one with high end specs, a plethora of features for the geekerati, dual booting Android and Ubuntu, and able to hook into a keyboard, mouse, and monitor, to act as a desktop computer.And it could be yours in May 2014.
While the mobile OS and UI layer that is Ubuntu Touch is one of the more interesting areas of technology I’m watching in 2013. I’m pretty confident that the goal will be reached before the 21st of August, but that’s only the first step in another challenge …  proving there is an alternative to the manufacturer/carrier model that keeps the smartphone ecosystem as a very expensive and exclusive space to do business in.
The hardware is, essentially, an up-gunned Android handset with an open bootloader that will allow the user to go for Android (a nice, safe, solution that you would expect to work out the box), or the fun and games of Ubuntu Touch.The daily builds of Ubuntu Touch currently run on the Android reference platforms of the Galaxy Nexus, the Nexus 4, and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus 4.Why Ubuntu need to go out and have their own handset is the point to address.

It’s easy to see the marketing advantage of having a ‘best in class’ device that’s available in low numbers, but look at that high target goal… The Ubuntu team  are aware of the challenges they are going to face in getting the Ubuntu Edge handset to their supported, and how much will be riding on the success of this project.
This isn’t the first crowd funded project to try and build a smartphone for a specific purpose – the Fairphone hopes to have their smartphone which has been built around high social values (in terms of parts, labour, and construction, throughout the supply chain) available in October this year, with around 11,000 handsets presold. Neither is it going to be the last crowd-funded smartphone. But it’s going to be the most visible.
That makes the success of the Ubuntu Edge handset even more important. If it fails, the manufactures and networks can carry on determining the specs, operating systems, and distribution to suit them.
But if the Ubuntu Edge is a success, then the crowd funding model will have been proved to work in a spectacular way, an alternative OS will have public and financial backing, and a new way of using a smartphone will be in the hands of tens of thousands of evangelists.
Ubuntu is going to be one to watch in mobile this year .

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