Canonical wants to build a smartphone called the Ubuntu Edge that dual boots Android and Ubuntu, which has 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, and which you can use as a phone or a desktop PC (just add keyboard, mouse, and monitor).
In order to make that happen, the company’s turned to crowd-funding, with the ambitious goal of raising $32 million in 31 days. If that doesn’t happen, the project gets scrapped.
What’s a bit crazy is that no project to date has ever raised that much. What’s even crazier is that it looks like Canonical’s strategy just might work. Maybe.
About a day after the Ubuntu Edge page went live on crowd-funding site Indiegogo, the project has raised about $3.5 million in pledges.
To put that in perspective, up until now the most any campaign has ever raised on Indiegogo has been less than $1.7 million, or about half as much as the Ubuntu Edge project generated in one day.
There have been some bigger success stories on Kickstarter, but to my knowledge, the most anyone’s ever raised through internet crowd-funding is about $14.7 million, which is still less than half of Canonical’s goal.
So theoretically if Canonical can keep up the pace, it could shatter all of those records. But it’s likely that pledges will start to taper off soon.
Crowd-funding campaigns are sort of like movies. Opening weekend (or day, or whatever) is when they tend to get the most buzz and when backers are likely to come out in larger numbers. While some folks will take time to consider whether to pledge money to a campaign, a lot of activity tends to take place right away.
That seems to matter more for smaller campaigns though — if a campaign doesn’t raise some money right away, people tend to stay away. Since Ubuntu Edge is off to such a strong start, it’s likely to stay on people’s radars for the coming month.
But the project faces another challenge: Canonical is offering phones as rewards to backers who pledge enough money. But while the first 5,000 people to donate $600 or more could sign up for that perk, once those units are accounted for, the pledge price goes up to $830.
It’s not that the hardware isn’t worth that much — no other phone released to date has 4GB of RAM or 128GB of storage. It’s just a lot of money to pay for a phone — especially one that might not ever see the light of day.
Remember, this is a crowd-funding campaign, not a pre-order form. Backers are offering to send money to Canonical to help bring something new into the world. Something might go wrong, the phone might never be built, and you might not actually get anything tangible for that pledge of $830 or more.
Anyway, the point is that now that the cheaper $600 rewards are gone, if you want to pledge enough money to try to get your hands on a phone you’re going to need to pony up an even steeper $830 — and that could turn some folks off.
On the other hand, if you can find a friend to go in with you on a pledge, there’s another option. For a $1400 pledge, Canonical says it hopes to be able to ship you two phones.
If all goes according to plan (and it might not), the Ubuntu Edge phone is expected to ship in May, 2014. The ability to dock it and use it as a desktop is expected to roll out in a software update after that.
The phone is expected to have a 4.5 inch, 1280 x 720 pixel display, a multi-core processor, 8MP rear camera and 2MP front camera, WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC, and LTE.
On the other hand, if Canonical doesn’t raise $32 million by August 21st, nothing will be delivered at all.