Ubuntu Edge might just change the computing world

It looks like Ubuntu Edge will reach the $32 million goal that Mark Shuttleworth set to begin building the hybrid smartphone PC. But will it have a market? Could it replace the traditional PC?
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu and its parent company, Canonical, is making a bet with the technology market. He's betting that enough of you will be willing to invest in a smartphone that can double as a PC, the Ubuntu Edge, to raise the $32 million needed to manufacture it. You know what? I think he's going to win that bet.

Ubuntu Edge will bring you an Ubuntu desktop computer and Android smartphone in one handheld device.

Before getting into why he'll win not just the bet that gadget fans will want one but the far bigger bet that the world is ready for a single handheld device that can double as a full PC, the Ubuntu Edge.

Jono Bacon, Ubuntu's community manager described the Ubuntu Edge as a device that will "dual boot Ubuntu and Android, and will transform into a PC when docked with a monitor—with the full Ubuntu desktop and shared access to all the phone’s files. For this it needs the power of a PC, so Ubuntu Edge will be equipped with the latest, fastest processor, at least 4GB of RAM and a massive 128GB of (SSD) storage."

Specifically, its technical specs, at this time, look like this: 

  • Dual-boot Ubuntu Edge into either Ubuntu or Android

  • A fully integrated Ubuntu desktop PC when docked

  • Fast and powerful device with multi-core CPU and at least 4GB RAM

  • 128GB of Solid State Device (SSD) storage for photos, music, content

  • A 4.5-inch 1,280 x 720 HD display with a pure sapphire crystal screen, the hardest natural substance after the diamond

  • Cameras made for low-light, fast response and close up pictures: 8mp rear camera, 2mp front

  • Faster connections all over the world with dual-LTE, dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4, Near Field Communication (NFC)

  • Connect to HDMI TVs and monitors easily with MHL connector, 3.5mm jack

  • GPS, accelerometer, gyro, proximity sensor, compass, barometer

  • Stereo speakers with HD audio, dual-mic recording, Active Noise Cancellation

  • Silicon-anode Li-Ion battery

  • 64 x 9 x 124mm size.

So, why will Canonical get the $32-million it needs from crowd sourcing via Indiegogo over the next 30 days to finance a limited production run of 40,000 phones? First, because gadget lovers won't be able to resist it.  Second, they're already buying into it.

In the first 24-hours of the fundraiser, Canonical raised over $3-million. According to the company, "We hit $1 million in under five hours, and $2 million not long after that. We’ve now passed the 10 percent line, which shows just how much demand there is out there for the Edge’s radical new approach to mobile technology."

In 24-hours, Canonical raised over 10-percent of the amount it needed for the Ubuntu Edge.

Pretty good right?

Here's what you may not know.

Canonical has been working on combining an Androd smartphone and the Ubuntu desktop since early 2012. This idea of a hybrid smartphone/PC has been in the works for months. Mark and company know exactly what they're doing.

And, what are they working on you ask? Well, it's not simply throwing out yet another cool gadget idea to float or sink. It's the result of a long, hard look at the PC market and deciding that it was time for a radical new idea.

Unless you've been under a rock, you know that the PC market has started a long slow death. Earlier this year, IDC reported the worse PC sales drop in a generation.

It's not that PCs are going to go away. They're not. We're still going to be using them in offices and homes for years. They let us do work that we can't easily do with a tablet or a phone. But, and it's a big but, what we really want these days are smaller, hand-portable devices.

One of my ZDNet colleagues argues that RT's failure may herald the death of Windows. Another thinks that it shows that the Windows PC is becoming irrelevant. Google would agree but maintain that desktop computing's future belongs to the cloud-based Chromebook. The Chromebook's sales numbers would seem to bear this out.

Canonical looked at this same market and came up with its own take. Yes, they say, people want a handheld device not a PC. But they also know that many of us will always need a keyboard-based device as well.

Their answer: Give people a single device. Make it so people don't need to carry a laptop, even a Chromebook, and a smartphone. Make it so that you can carry all your needed computing power in a shirt pocket. They foresee a post-PC future where you simply plug your super-smartphone into your office, hotel, conference center, or home keyboard and monitor and you'll be ready to go.

Will people buy into this bet? I think they will.

 I don't know if single-unit, everything-in-one, fit into your pocket PCs/smartphones will become the form factor for the near future. I do know that it won't be the traditional PC or laptop. Their day is done. The future belongs to cloud-based devices, tablets, smartphones, and, quite possibly, devices that look and work a lot like Canonical's Ubuntu Edge.

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