The Mycroft Mark II is designed to be an open source, privacy-focused alternative to smart speakers and smart displays powered by voice assistant software from Amazon, Apple, or Google. The developers of the open source Mycroft voice assistant launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for the Mark II in 2018 and, after a series of setbacks, eventually began shipping the device to backers toward the end of 2022.

But now Mycroft CEO Michael Lewis* says the company can no longer afford to continue making and shipping Mark II units to backers. So it’s ending the campaign, which means that thousands of backers won’t receive anything for their money.

The Mycroft Mark II features a 4.3 inch display, stereo 5 watt speakers, dual microphones, and a 5MP camera for video calls. It can answer questions, set reminders, and perform other tasks thanks to the Mycroft voice assistant, which does not require an internet connection to function and which doesn’t collect any user unless you opt-in.

When Mycroft first launched a crowdfunding campaign for the Mark II, the company set reward levels as low as $99 (or $89 for early bird backers). But Lewis says that costs have gone up substantially since then.

The first problem was that Mycroft’s hardware partner wasn’t able to deliver on its promises, so the company turned to combining off the shelf components to design a new version… and eventually designed a new custom board for the device. But a combination of supply chain issues and manufacturing costs increased the cost of making Mark II units – Lewis says it cost about $300 to ship each unit out the door.

So the company set higher prices for retail units, hoping to subsidize the cost of fulfilling Kickstarter rewards with retail sales.

But that doesn’t seem to have worked out all that well. Lewis says most of the Mycroft staff was laid off recently, leaving just two developers, one customer service agent, and one attorney — because one of the company’s other major costs has been “ongoing litigation against the non-practicing patent entity” that has been going after Mycroft in recent years.

That said, if you really want to get your hands on a Mycroft Mark II, you can still order one from the Mycroft website for $499. But Lewis acknowledges that the company’s ongoing struggles have prevented Mycroft from making the software as useful as it could be, which makes the proposition of spending that much money on a smart display a little daunting. And at this point it doesn’t seem like Mycroft expects to make enough profit from sales of $499 Mark II units to fulfill any more Kickstarter orders.

At this point it’s unclear how many Kickstarter rewards have been shipped. As of December 24th, Lewis said that 52 units had “been released to backers so far, with another batch that will be emailed shortly.” But over 2,000 people backed the crowdfunding campaign, which suggests that the vast majority of backers will never receive any Mycroft hardware.

via Slashdot

*This article has been updated to reflect the fact that the current CEO of Mycroft is Michael Lewis, rather than Joshua Montgomery. Montgomery stepped down as CEO in 2020 and left the company in 2022, but since the Kickstarter campaign was launched under his name, the updates to the Kickstarter campaign were posted under the name Joshua Montgomery, although Lewis signs his name at the bottom.

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  1. With 2,000 backers and a cost of 3x the price, they should be able to ship about 800 units more.

  2. The best part about this is that they thought that people would purchase something that looks like it came directly out of a 70’s Stanley Kubrick sci-fi movie for that price point. I’m so glad that I didn’t back it and only gave them a dollar for a reservation. It took way too long to do something that should have taken a fraction of the time with the team they had (even with the ‘VID factored in). When the product started rolling out, I thought it was literally a cruel joke.

  3. Kickstarter = funding someone’s hobby project. It is fine if you like the project’s intended goals, but don’t expect a working product.

    1. Not quite; the PinePhone (Pro) and Librem 5 are leading the renaissance there and then there’s the handsets supported by PostmarketOS, which is based on Arch.
      Not to mention that, technically, Android is based on a version of Linux.

      1. Right now even Microsoft is struggling to re-enter the mobile industry.
        Pinephone & Librem are so far behind the technological progress they are already obsolete dinosaurs, at best personal hobby projects there is nothing wrong with that.

        Watch ‘Why Mobile Linux Died Explained {Computer Wednesday Ep193}’ by S2T for an explanation and suggestion of what it would take to make Linux phones viable.

        I refuse to think of Android as anything other than a proprietary spyware toy operating system that masquerades as open source.

      2. I agree that from a consumer perspective, Linux smartphones are dead on arrival. Android may be the bogeyman, but I rely on Android apps daily to: connect to my credit union, pay/receive cash with Zelle, manage our health issues, order and pick up groceries, to name a few critical uses.

        Until Linux has a fully functional android emulator, or native Linux apps that can match the Play Store apps I use, it is pretty useless to me on my phone.

        1. Tried Waydroid? It’s already fulfilling that purpose for people who daily drive the PP(P) and/or the Librem 5…

      3. The trouble is mainly that…all that stuff people want is there, it’s just not simple enough, or reliable enough, or fast enough. And the battery life sucks.
        This really isn’t their fault. It’s the fault of ARM and the inconsistent proprietary blobs and firmware necessary to get anything working on ARM SoCs. Even so, until someone puts their foot down and FORCES SoC vendors to follow a firmware standard that enables real operating system choice, this is going to continue, and people who advocate for Linux phones, and by extension, any way out of the repressive IT duopolies, are going to continue to look like stupid, paranoid, insecure idiots who support evil businesses that are doomed to cease to exist.
        Even when they really aren’t doing anything wrong.

        1. I seriously wanted the Linux phone to succeed. Maybe on Risc-v 5-10 years from now Linux will give the phone another attempt. By then big corporations will likely have progressed to brain implant VR phones or some other unnecessarily complex invasive tech and microwave service providers won’t do old fashioned smartphones anymore so Linux mobile will still be obsolete.

  4. Isn’t this the more likely result of crowdfunding projects?

    I wonder if the backers will try to get together and see if they can file a lawsuit about getting “scammed” out of their “orders” as usual.

  5. I think that design reason, more people wanna slam and thin , try do again design and add some cool that abilities extra to back in rise fund to build new source that more people will interested it. See I am Deaf I could not enough budget to be studying and second blueprint, third is development them fourth is them of show in offering for future in market about deaf’s Alexa that can sign Language and extra ability can do for deaf need because second English language on deaf. I know it hard access be part of company too, best is trying again try think hard be cheer .fix correct ask analysis see why failed to be fix.