The Ubuntu Edge: Canonical’s Proposed Ubuntu Android Phone With a Lofty Crowdfunding Target. $32 Million Lofty.

The Ubuntu Edge: Canonical’s Proposed Ubuntu Android Phone With a Lofty Crowdfunding Target. $32 Million Lofty.

Jul 22, 2013

Ubuntu’s parent company Canonical has made a lot of rumblings over the past couple of years about Ubuntu for Android, their concept of a mobile OS that would be adaptable to mobile-friendly interfaces while functioning as a standard desktop OS when docked. While news has come out and even test builds have made their way on to Nexus devices, a concrete plan for Ubuntu for Android has not been realized until now. Canonical wants to launch the Ubuntu Edge phone, but needs more crowdfunded money than anyone else has ever gotten.

First, the phone: while it’s currently still a concept, the specs they’re targeting would make it the fastest phone on the market. 128 GB of storage, 4 GB of RAM, “the fastest multi-core CPU” all on a 4.5" 1280×720 display. Granted, this is all targeted for next year, but that’s not a bad set of planned specs. Not real yet, but planned. Interestingly, the phone is intended to launch with the ability to dual-boot Android as well as Ubuntu, which is quite possibly the best part of this. Have any issues with Ubuntu lacking apps? Well, good news, they’ll be on Android. Even just as a phone that could run Android when needed as a phone and work as a desktop when necessary, that’s not a bad combo.

Now for the sticker shock: the price? Planned to be about $830 for the unlocked version. Or $600 for those who back Canonical’s $32 million IndieGoGo project for the Ubuntu Edge on day one.

Yes, Canonical has decided to take the maxim “shoot for the moon; even if you miss you’ll be among the stars” to heart. This could conceivably be the biggest crowdfunding project of all time and it could still fall well short of its goal. Of course, the scale is massive. Hardware crowdfunding projects have done big business before: look at the Ouya and Pebble watch. Still, those were fractions of the price of the Ubuntu Edge. It’s a lofty goal, but pledges are coming in, with over $850,000 pledged as of writing. Despite being on IndieGoGo, which has more flexible funding options than Kickstarter, this is using the same “all-or-nothing” fixed funding model: if they don’t get at least $32 million, they get squat.

And right now, if they don’t fund the Ubuntu Edge, the plan for an Ubuntu phone is dead. Ubuntu for Android will still exist, as they’ll keep targeting release on other hardware, but their own flagship device won’t happen. The chances that they succeed with this project are slim, as getting people to part with $830 for a phone that has an estimated release date of May 2014 isn’t easy, and no one has ever come close to this sort of crowdfunding money, much less away from Kickstarter. But Canonical is an established enough company that it doesn’t seem impossible. Just highly unlikely.

Ubuntu Touch Developer Preview Releases for Nexus Devices

Ubuntu Touch Developer Preview Releases for Nexus Devices

Feb 22, 2013

Ubuntu has plans to take their Linux-based operating system from desktops and laptops and expand it out to pretty much every modern display and interface that’s out there with Ubuntu Touch. Phones and tablets are going to be the first devices that will get to use the hybrid OS. A preview build is now available for the Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4, Nexus 7, and Nexus 10.

The idea appears to be that Ubuntu wants to make one OS to power all devices. A phone interface for phones, a tablet OS when on a bigger touchscreen (say the Padfone?), a desktop OS when connected to a monitor with external peripherals, and even a “Ten-foot interface” when connected to a TV. This is all theoretically on one device. As well, the tablet interface can integrate tablet-optimized apps to run alongside phone-interface apps.

Now, Ubuntu was initially promised as operating as a single kernel on an Android device where the Android side of things would power the phone interface, and Ubuntu would power the actual computing side of it. This appears to be actually a special phone interface for Ubuntu, meaning that they have likely changed course on their plans.

However, there’s plenty of reasons to be interested in this: tablet-laptop hybrids are a burgeoning industry, but by instead adapting the interface for the form factor currently in use, it may solve some of the awkward issues. As well, Linux has deeper roots on ARM-based processors (the processor architecture which powers many modern phones) than Windows RT, the ARM-based variant of Windows 8 that powers the cheaper Surface version. However, with x86 Android devices on their way (the processor architecture that powers most modern computers) then more desktop apps could come to Ubuntu Touch.

The developer builds is available from Ubuntu’s website; they require your device to be wiped to use them and are primarily meant for developers building apps, not for consumer usage, so only the extremely curious and those wanting to make apps for Ubuntu for Android need apply.

Ubuntu for Android Will Unify the Android Phone and Ubuntu Desktop Experience in One Device

Ubuntu for Android Will Unify the Android Phone and Ubuntu Desktop Experience in One Device

Feb 22, 2012

Android may be a Linux-based OS, and a very powerful mobile operating system that can perform a lot of computer tasks, but it’s still a secondary device to a computer. Canonical, developers of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, want to bring Ubuntu to Android smartphones, and have announced Ubuntu for Android to help get this done.

The requirements for an Ubuntu for Android device will include many phones released in the past year: 1 GHz dual-core processor, 512 MB of RAM, 2 GB of memory, along with HDMI output and a USB port. The idea appears to be to have it be something that will be a hybrid of both Android and Ubuntu, so users could simply dock their phone or plug in the required hardware and then boom, instant Ubuntu on a monitor. This is possible because Ubuntu for Android will use the same kernel as the Android build running on the device, making it possible for both experiences to exist side-by-side. So, when users use their phone, it will be a typical Android experience, but this will enable phone users to use their phones as a desktop when necessary. It will also integrate phone functions into the desktop OS, enabling users to read and write SMS messages and talk on the phone from the desktop.

This is a bold strategy, and one that will dramatically alter the phone experience, if not unify disparate experiences in one device. This could be extremely useful for tablets, as they are the typical victims of the gap between a mobile OS and a desktop OS – the mobile experience and feature set can occasionally be limiting to what a desktop or laptop OS can do. Hypothetically, an Ubuntu for Android tablet could be used to type up reports while on the go in a coffee shop from an app like Documents to Go, then set up in the dekstop mode at the office to polish and finish it off using desktop Ubuntu apps.

The concern for modern phones potentially using Ubuntu for Android will be that there aren’t a lot of apps built for the ARM processors that currently power many Android devices. Intel x86 architecture is coming to Android, but is still something that is “in the future.” Still, this could be the niche that these devices could actually launch with – the idea of a phone that is also seamlessly a desktop, and could run many Ubuntu applications on the desktop easily.

While this whole project is something that is just now getting off the ground, it appears as if Canonical wants to push this to phone manufacturers and carriers as well as the end user, becuase adoption of Ubuntu for Android will come more easily when it is something that the average user could go out and buy, instead of having to hack their phone to support.