The Ubuntu Edge smartphone project has already raised a staggering amount of money in just a few days. Folks interested in helping bring a phone that dual boots Android and Ubuntu and which can function as a desktop PC to market have pledged more than $6 million toward a goal of $32 million in hopes of being among the first to get the phone.

Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth is doing his part to keep interest in the project strong. He took to reddit to answer questions about the phone.

Here are some of the highlights.

ubuntu Edge

Open Hardware

While the Ubuntu software on the phone will be open source, the hardware will not necessarily be open. The goal of this project is to see if Canonical can get a phone built and brought to market with crowd-funded support.

So the team has looked for the best hardware available, but hasn’t necessarily looked for hardware with the best open source drivers.

Instead, the goal is to offer a strong enough experience to power both mobile and desktop software.

The final CPU and GPU haven’t yet been selected, but the phone’s expected to feature 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Those are the kinds of specs we usually see in laptops, not phones — although the low power ARM-based processor will bring more of a phone/tablet type of touch by enabling long battery life and always-on capabilities.

If all goes well, Canonical may ask community members to vote on features for future models.

6 years of software support

Mark Shuttleworth says: The Edge will ship in the first half of 2014, and Canonical will offer software updates for Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. That’s a Long Term Support release, which means that Canonical will continue offering support for this phone for 6 years.

Brad Linder interprets: Support in this case may mean bug fixes and security updates, not necessarily new features. While Canonical could certainly offer updates to Ubuntu 14.10 and beyond, it looks like the focus is on the long-term version of Ubuntu, and those only come out every 18 months.

By the time the next one is due in late 2015, the Ubuntu Edge hardware might start to look a little dated.

Hackability

While the phone will ship with Android and Ubuntu, the platform will be open enough to allow users to hack and tinker. Theoretically there won’t be anything stopping you from loading a different operating system on the Ubuntu Edge if you’d prefer to have a Debian or Fedora phone (assuming you can figure out how to make phone calls on a device running Debian or Fedora).

Lower pledge levels

Like the idea of the project, but don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars to reserve a phone? Shuttleworth says the team is open to the idea of lower pledge levels where backers would get a T-shirt or something.

Wireless charging?

Nope. When added to all the other hardware Canonical wants to cram in the case, it’d make the phone too thick.

Ubuntu Notebook?

Canonical has no plans to crowd-fund its own laptop. But if the company reaches its $32 million funding goal for the Edge, it’s possible someone else could try to raise money to build and offer a notebook running Ubuntu or another open source operating system.

Ubuntu on other phones?

Shuttleworth says several “brand name manufacturers” have presented phones running Ubuntu to carriers, but there’s no word yet on if or when any carrier/device maker combo will be ready to bring one to market anytime soon.

How many phones will $32 million build?

The best guess is about 40,000 phones. It’d probably cost less per device to build a larger number.

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11 replies on “Ubuntu Edge questioned answered: 6 years of OS support, hardware not necessarily “open””

  1. 6 years of support… And after? Updates at our own risks in 16.04 LTS? Or blocked? Because if it is blocked, it’s not more really Ubuntu…

    1. The hardware is unlocked, so load whatever you like. But 6 years ago, state of the art was a Blackberry with a trackball, so you probably will no longer care…

  2. It would be awesome for there to be a laptop dock for the Edge with a battery and high quality and resolution screen with a good trackpad and keyboard.

  3. “Ubuntu Edge questioned answered” Questions answered? Can anyone tell us of this thing has an SD card slot or whether Ubuntu is going to force us into their “Cloud” like Apple, Amazon, Google, etc?

  4. This project has some of the weirdest tiering I have ever seen. Initially it was $600 or $830 with an Edge as the perk. Now there are several levels with an Edge only as a perk. Where is the normal tiering – ie with premium tiers with added incentives. ie for a rough example – a $999 tier that includes a simple dock, $850 tier that includes choice of color , a $900 tier that includes a case etc.

    It is abundantly clear that the price threshold is near the $700 mark, why not have an unlimited tier at $699, and then premium tiers as above that will average out to $800/unit. Just like most other crowd funded projects do

    1. Probably because they have done research into manufacturing costs and know what 830 is the true cost of manufacturing, the lower tiers are there to encourage early backers, and to provide an incentive for people that are on the fence, to try to force impulse spending to save money.

  5. It’s nice to get 6 years of security and bug fixes. I don’t really care about new features Well, at least when the OS has matured enough, I don’t care about new features much but this is the first release so we’ll see.

    I wonder how they plan on supporting the hardware for 6 years when the closed drivers aren’t likely to be updated to fix issues with new kernels. At least for the desktop version, Ubuntu has started updating the kernel to newer major versions. If they do that with Ubuntu Phone then closed drivers targeted towards a specific kernel version may break which often happens on most ARM devices.

    Canonical may be better off going with Intel Silvermont based SoCs. Intel has put a lot of effort into open source drivers. Well at least compared to all the ARM vendors.

    1. 4GB of Ram says one of two things:

      1. Normal ARM maxes out with 3GB of ram + 1GB of memory mapped devices, boot roms, etc. So we are talking about ARM 64bit. Do you think Ubuntu will be one of the very first vendors to get access to that? Do you think they have HAD access to it long enough to have a port up?

      2. Intel. And a low power Intel chip with x86_64 support or a low power chip with the PAE extensions normally reserved for server parts.

      I leave it to those who follow the details of Intel chips to figure out what is likely to actually go into this beastie.

      1. cortex A15 supports 40-bit Large Physical Address Extensions allowing up to 1TB for ram. I would assume that the edge would be looking at the either A15 or Krait architectures.

        They could go intel which could put intel phones, in as a real competitor.

        1. Wow, what a crock. So much for the R in ARM. Guess ARM64 isn’t going to be ready in time so they will now get to carry around this legacy cruft forever.

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