Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

Ubuntu Edge Isn’t Happening

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 2.34.47 PM

From the get go, I was not impressed with the Ubuntu Edge, the new smartphone from Ubuntu that will dual boot Android and, no prizes for guessing, Ubuntu Linux. The smartphone pie is mostly made up of Android and iOS, with Windows Phone and Blackberry fighting for the crumbs. Do we need yet another mobile operating system?

Ultimately, the Ubuntu Edge that Mark Shuttleworth is pushing is just Linux. Android is Linux. I know it is not quite the same thing. But let’s not try to get into nitty gritty details. It’s not as if consumers are going to care. Ubuntu Edge, at least the software part of it, could just as well be simply a skin on top of Android. Maybe it would be better off being just a skin on top of Android. Why couldn’t it have been another HTC Sense or TouchWiz?

In terms of physical design, the Ubuntu Edge does have a nice clean look. At 9mm thick, it won’t compete in the ultra-thin segment. I also wouldn’t say it is exceptionally spectacular, but certainly give it above average points in the design category.

The hardware specifications, however, can at best be described as mediocre in a flagship smartphone. Mark Shuttleworth doesn’t want to play the display resolution race, leaving the Ubuntu Edge’s 4.5″ screen with just 720×1280 pixels. The 4GB of RAM, 128GB of internal flash, and dual-LTE may be impressive today, but considering the phone will only launch in May 2014, one shouldn’t be surprised if these would just be standard fare then.

The other two hardware bits I thought worth mentioning are the sapphire glass display and Silicon-Anode Li-Ion battery. We haven’t had any battery breakthrough for many years. I don’t know how much of an improvement Silicon-Anode Li-Ion would deliver, but hopefully it would have an appreciable benefit. I’m not asking for one-week  battery life, but how about comfortably getting by two fully days of substantial use. That would be great when you forget the charge your phone for one day, and still  have plenty enough juice to last you the second day.

Honestly, the hardware looks more interesting to me than the software. Which brings me to the next point. The Ubuntu Edge will dual boot into Android as well. It’s a sure sign that Mark Shuttleworth is not confident Ubuntu Linux would take off on the smartphone, so leaving the Android option there.

There’s less than 48 hours left in the Ubuntu Edge crowd funding pitch on Indiegogo. They’ve raised a record almost US$12M, but still US$20M shy of their goal. I’m guessing they aren’t going to make it, unless someone (or some people) come in now to plonk down US$20M.

The US$32M goal is really ambitious. That Mark Shuttleworth should think they could also jump onto the smartphone market with their own mobile operating system is also extremely ambitious. I’m sure if Ubuntu Linux on a smartphone is such a great idea, they could still work on that. There’s no need to create hardware of their own. It seems to me more of an ego trip that they had to go launch both a mobile operating system and a smartphone hardware.

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