Canonical: Apple bought up three years of our sapphire screen and proved us right

Canonical: Apple bought up three years of our sapphire screen and proved us right

Summary: Canonical's sapphire dreams for Ubuntu Edge are over for now, but they live on in Apple's and Samsung's product roadmaps.


Did Apple buy the same 4.5-inch sapphire displays that Canonical had planned to use for the Ubuntu Edge?

Canonical's crowdfunded bid to launch the high-end Edge smartphone gained a lot of financial support from fans, but ultimately never came off. But in a Town Hall Hangout on Wednesday, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth argued that doesn't mean its ideas for the device were off the mark and indeed its vision for the future looks like it will come to pass in future devices from Apple and Samsung.

A case in point is Apple's rumoured plans to ship its next iPhone with sapphire displays, which incidentally come from the exact same supplier Canonical had been intending to use.

"Apple just snapped up three years worth of the supply of sapphire screens from the company that we had engaged to make the screens for them — the Edge," said Shuttleworth.

His comments appear to reference a recent story about Apple having acquired enough sapphire crystal production capacity through its supplier GT Advanced to make anywhere from 100 million to 200 million five-inch iPhone displays, extending its use of the hard material beyond protection for TouchID and the rear camera lens.

Since the Ubuntu Edge had a 4.5 inch display, it's given rise to speculation that Apple for some reason acquired displays for a smaller device than its current phone — which might mean it's planning to launch two new iDevice varients featuring those sapphire screens.

But does Shuttleworth know something about Apple's plans the rest of the world does not?

He didn't appear to be making that claim but was definitely arguing a point he has long insisted — that Canonical's Ubuntu Edge dream, though it didn't reach production, was far from harebrained.

Asked whether Ubuntu Edge would ever exist, Shuttleworth suggested the Edge actually did. Not in its phone, but in the roadmaps of other mobile giants.

"That was a labour of love… It was an amazing device that pulled together essentially the future in the palm of your hands. We didn't get the mandate to make it in that round, but isn't it interesting how many of the things we said we needed to include are showing up on other people's roadmaps."

Besides Apple's plan for sapphire displays, Shuttleworth noted that Apple and now Samsung were now referring to their smartphone CPUs as "desktop-class". The Edge would have come with multi-core CPU and at least 4GB RAM and a 128GB of solid state storage.

"That's another thing we said you needed to have in the Edge and that's a desktop-class CPU. And we're starting to see the roadmaps for devices from Samsung and others that have the same amount of RAM that we were proposing for the Edge. So, yes, I think devices of that calibre are going to be in the market. And for better or worse we are going to be focussed purely on making the software."

The first devices shipping its software, also announced yesterday, will come from Spanish manufacturer bq, and Chinese manufacturer Meizu.  

Shuttleworth also argued that Project Ara — the part of Motorola that Google didn't sell to Lenovo — also chimed with Canonical's ideas.

"Project Ara is all about having a little personal computer that essentially doesn't have a screen but you can attach it to a phone and then it becomes a phone. Well that would be exactly the thing you would want at the heart of a convergence strategy. So I think we're in exactly the right place doing exactly the right stuff — we’re building the software for a future convergent world."

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Topics: Linux, Apple, iPhone, Samsung, Ubuntu

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • yes, because business is about being RIGHT

  • Ego alert

    Seriously? A RUMOR that Apple is snapping up sapphire screen production vindicates your failed product launch because it also had a sphere screen? If you have so much confidence in your vision, front the money yourself for it.
    • Failed launch?

      I wasn't aware the product launched at all.
      Michael Alan Goff
  • Canonical does dream a lot, always has

    But execution has always been the only thing that ever mattered. Canonical has had a lot of dreams, ever since they decided to go beyond being an excellent desktop OS to whatever the heck Unity is aimed at (nobody, ultimately.)

    None of them have ever panned out.
  • Sapphire is inevitable----

    Liam, I understand if you wish to delete this post.
    Here is some background on sapphire and the reason it will absolutely dominate display screen covers of about 7-inches and below:
    Paul B. Wordman
  • common Shuttleworth Get a life!

    common Shulttleworth, have your own operating system first and then talk! You own just a company that makes an orange ugly theme for an outdated stupid operating system!
  • common Shuttleworth Get a life!

    common Shulttleworth, have your own operating system first and then talk! You own just a company that makes an orange ugly theme for an outdated stupid operating system!
  • Ubuntu is a trend setter...

    after the Sapphire screens, its going to be their other spec like 128 GB SSD phone.
    • Take a look at the new Nokia - called "Jolla"

      .. They run Sailfish - a KDE distribution that can emulate Android. It predecessor, MeeGo ran Ubuntu, and I expect that most of the Ubuntu applications will run on this phone.