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Ubuntu sets crowdfund pledge record for Edge smartphone

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BBC News by Pia Gadkari | August 16, 2013

A crowdfunding campaign for the Ubuntu Edge smartphone has set a record for raising more money in pledges than any other such venture.

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The London-based developer, Canonical, has generated $10,288,472 (about £6.6m) in pledges, passing the record set by Pebble smartwatches last year.

But with six days of its campaign left the company is far from reaching its funding goal of $32m.

Canonical would have to return all the money if it does not reach the target.

The developer had said that if its campaign on the Indiegogo crowdfunding website was successful, it would aim to deliver 40,000 handsets to qualifying backers by next May.

'Bringing the future forward'

In an interview with the BBC, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth said public interest in the Ubuntu Edge smartphone was high.

"The campaign has sparked a level of interest that has surprised even us," he said, adding that the campaign seized the attention not only of phone enthusiasts but innovators and futurists as well as manufacturers.

He added that some large manufacturers had come "out of the woodwork" to discuss the device with him.

Last week, Bloomberg said it had made an $80,000 contribution to the campaign, explaining that the open-source initiative could benefit its clients and influence the future of mobile computing.

But Mr Shuttleworth conceded the product might be too much of a departure from the current generation of smartphones for many institutional investors, such as major telecom companies, to consider backing it now.

If the Edge managed to find enough funding, "we would have been bringing the future forward a year or two at least", Mr Shuttleworth said.

Programs on the proposed smartphone would look like standard mobile apps when the handset was being used as a standalone device.

But they would change their user interfaces to that of a desktop application when the phone was docked with a monitor, Canonical said.

In addition, the operating system could support apps written in the HTML5 web language, albeit at slower speeds.

Particularly in regions such as Asia, Mr Shuttleworth said, businesses as well as individuals expressed interest in this type of device.

'Naive' strategy

But he acknowledged that, with one week of the campaign left, there was still a long way to go to meet the funding target.

Canonical aimed to raise $32m. Indiegogo's current funding record is $1,665,380, which was raised by Scandu Scout - a scheme to build a Star Trek-style Tricorder medical scanning device.

Its rival Kickstarter's record is $10,266,845 for the Pebble smartwatch.

"We were mindful that tripling a record is always a big stretch and a big ask," Mr Shuttleworth said.

"Risky new technology is difficult for mainstream manufacturers," he said, adding that the campaign's funding target was "head and shoulders" above anything else.

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