Ubuntu’s crazy, beautiful idea.

Ubuntu Edge

I’m usually fairly pragmatic about my technology purchases, but last night was an exception. Just after dinner I pledged $600 USD to Indiegogo for a high-powered mobile device that may or may not ever see the light of day. It’s called the Ubuntu Edge.

Despite a net worth of some $500 million, Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth has decided to crowdfund the company’s first smartphone, seeking to raise $32 million in a do-or-die campaign.

To quote Shuttleworth: “It’s a crazy, beautiful idea.”

I don’t need to tell you that crowdfunding is all the rage right now. But this particular campaign is proving to be a lightning rod for the Linux community. On reddit, the Indiegogo listing is currently among the top posts at r/Linux and r/Android; if you read through the comments there you’ll see that there’s a genuine desire to break the duopoly of Android and iOS.

Of the other contenders, Jolla is a joke. Strategic partners in China? Good luck against the likes of Meizu and Xiaomi… And Firefox is playing it far too safe, launching their HTML5-based mobile OS only on low-end hardware.

But with the Ubuntu Edge Shuttleworth gets it right. From his on-camera pitch:

With this project for the first time you will have the ability to try the most exciting technologies long before everyone else.

Shut up and take my money!

Pragmatically speaking this is a low-risk investment, but I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t admit that it’s ultimately an emotional purchase. I want a successful open-source alternative to Android, but I also want a cool high-end phone. And if a limited production run increases its snob appeal, so much the better.

As expected the first 5,000 reduced-priced units are now sold out. Some redditors are betting that Shuttleworth will swoop in at the eleventh hour of this 30-day campaign and kick in the remainder of the $32 million himself. Fingers crossed…