It’s not the Consumer Electronics Show just yet, but the annual OSCON open-source conference in Portland is getting some sizzle from a shiny new gadget this year.
Mark Shuttleworth, the tech entrepreneur and instigator of the Ubuntu Linux project, brought prototypes of a striking new Ubuntu phone that could be available starting in 2014.
The phone is expected to have a 4.5-inch sapphire glass display, LTE, 128 gigabytes of storage, a quad-core processor and the ability to run both Android and Ubuntu. It’s designed to function as a desktop PC when docked with a monitor, similar to the I-Mate Windows 8 PC concept that surfaced in February.
The metal exterior has a dark finish and tapered sides reminiscent of Microsoft’s Surface tablets.
Shuttleworth’s London-based company providing Ubuntu services, Canonical, funded initial development of the prototypes. Now it’s raising money online to produce 40,000 of the phones that will showcase the capability of Ubuntu as a mobile platform, similar to the way Google’s Nexus line shows off Android.
So far today the project has raised $2.4 million from donors. They’ll receive one of the devices in return for contributing at least $830.
A day-one promotion offered a device to the first 5,000 people to pledge $600. By late afternoon about 3,800 people had done so.
Shuttleworth said more than a dozen phone carriers have expressed interested in Ubuntu devices. He said the Edge isn’t intended to compete with phone makers but rather demonstrate the concept.
“This is a very fast-moving space – we deliberately set out to build a device that the phone industry won’t naturally get to in the next two years,” he said. “The whole point is to really get out there and push the limits of what’s possible.”
It’s not yet clear what sort of processor will be included in the Edge. Shuttleworth said it’s too early to say in part because he’s waiting for final details of next-generation mobile hardware coming out early next year.
Given the intense competition among mobile chipmakers, you’d think Shuttleworth could probably raise money from a company like Intel for the phone project.
“Possibly,” he said, “but I think there’s something authentic about going to people and saying ‘what do you want in a device’ and shaping it.”