Why Ubuntu Edge deserves your support

At $32 million, Canonical's audacious, ambitious crowdfunding project for the new Ubuntu phone is worth sponsoring

The Ubuntu Edge phone has now received about $1 million a day since it started its crowdfunding attempt last week during OSCON. I had the chance to discuss the project with Mark Shuttleworth, the multimillionaire founder of Ubuntu's parent company Canonical. You can watch the interview we recorded after our conversation at the end of this article.

On July 22, Canonical launched a project on the popular crowdfunding site Indiegogo. It's extremely ambitious. Canonical is seeking $32 million for the production of an experimental new mobile phone, dubbed "Ubuntu Edge." The phone will sport all the latest state-of-the-art features and use Ubuntu Linux as its operating system. When docked with an HDMI monitor, it will also offer a full desktop computer experience able to run the largest desktop applications -- you may recall I even tested LibreOffice in this environment last year.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Is the Ubuntu Edge a good fit for the enterprise? | Ubuntu 'superphone' needs a superstrategy. | Track the latest trends in open source with InfoWorld's Technology: Open Source newsletter. ]

The initial offering of 5,000 phones priced at $600 each sold out within just a few hours of launch, and as of the time of writing, more than 17,000 people have made pledges to support the campaign. It still has a long way to go in its 20 remaining days, but it's already broken all Indiegogo records both for ambition and achievement.

I've known Mark for about seven years. His experiences with the free and open source software community have tempered his expectations among its advocates. Whatever he does, it's never quite right for someone somewhere, and the result is the sort of attack epitomized by the competing family factions in "Life of Brian," where it was always easier for the small groups of idealists to attack each other rather than the Romans. Since the philosophical distance between people who are essentially compatriots is so small, it's easy to articulate the differences in detail.

In appearance it is the factionalism that arises from the natural intolerance of alternative approaches inherent in extreme advocacy. Someone who tries to solve a problem in a different way is always considered wrong rather than different in such a worldview. While this factionalism has arisen over time from natural sources, Mark is convinced it is now being harnessed by his commercial competitors, and I've certainly seen that happening on various social media sites.

As a consequence, some of the public reactions came as no surprise to Shuttleworth. The most common piece of sarcasm: "Why does a millionaire have to ask us for money to make a new toy?" and "Shouldn't you be asking mobile carriers for the money?" The questions belie a lack of understanding of Edge.

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