Engadget had a story about how Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, has kicked off an Indiegogo campaign to help raise money to build their first Ubuntu Phone, the Ubuntu Edge. You can donate at many levels, but if you donate at least $830 dollars they will send you an Ubuntu Edge once it’s built as well. The phone looks really sharp, and it has what sounds like a decent wish list of features.
- Dual boot Ubuntu mobile OS and Android
- Fully integrated Ubuntu desktop PC when docked
- Fastest multi-core CPU, 4GB RAM, 128GB storage
- 4.5in 1,280 x 720 HD sapphire crystal display
- 8mp low-light rear camera, 2mp front camera
- Dual-LTE, dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4, NFC
- GPS, accelerometer, gyro, proximity sensor, compass, barometer
- Stereo speakers with HD audio, dual-mic recording, Active Noise Cancellation
- MHL connector, 3.5mm jack
- Silicon-anode Li-Ion battery
- 64 x 9 x 124mm
Now, as you may know, I am Gear Diary’s resident Linux maven. I use Linux every single day and Android when I am mobile. Now as much as I want this to work, I am still very skeptical. The biggest reason is that there have been many phones based on Linux over the years. Way back in the PDA days, Sharp had the Zaurus that ran on a version of Linux. Nokia had Maemo which ran a modified version of the Debian Linux distribution. I loved Maemo way back when I did my first post on Gear Diary on the N770, and I saw real promise in Maemo. It went nowhere, with the only phone being released being the N900. After this, there was OpenMoko which wound up being ported and used for the WikiReader. Then there was Moblin which then became Tizen. While Tizen isn’t dead yet, they haven’t brought out a handset here in the US yet.
Are you seeing a trend here?
Each of these projects failed or is failing. None of them had a great amount of supporters outside of the Linux community, and I don’t think that Canonical can change it.
In fact, the Linux community has been critical of Ubuntu’s recent moves. Unity, their desktop interface, is not well liked in the community. Also, the move from Xorg (the graphical subsystem in most Linux Distros) to Wayland and then to their own Mir has been counter productive as well. I know it’s not a clear indicator of popularity, but for quite sometime, Ubuntu has lost ground on DistroWatch’s page hit rankings to Linux Mint…a Ubuntu based distribution itself. So it’s losing popularity with the exact community that should embrace the phone. Of course it does not help that Ubuntu supposedly developed parts of their last release, version 13.04 in secret which is not the norm for the community. Also, Canonical’s leader, Mark Shuttleworth has said he’s tired of the critics. The problem is these critics aren’t being listened to. With that said, some Linux users will buy this phone, but I think it’s an uphill battle with almost every group that might have had any interest in the device.
I am not wishing any ill will on the project — in fact, I hope that I am wrong — but I think Canonical is really grasping at straws here. They are going to bring their phone into a very mature market where Android and iOS are the clear leaders, and they have alienated parts of the Linux community. Even with ability for Ubuntu Edge to dual-boot Ubuntu and Android, I don’t think that will really be a success at all. While I wish Canonical well, I will just say: we’ll see.
What do you think? Do you think Ubuntu Edge has a chance? Would you invest in the project?