Crowdfunding has been steadily proving itself as a viable way for increasingly commercial projects to seek upfront financial support from their customers, yet up till now, no-one has attempted anything quite as big as the £32m Ubuntu Edge project.
Ubuntu Edge aims to build and ship 40,000 mobile phones, all running Ubuntu. It’s already breaking records and I want to give you three reasons why, like me, you should be helping them to reach their final goal:
1) Competition is a good thing
According to the most recent set of figures I have seen, Android has 80% of the smartphone market and Apple, well iOS, has 13%. That means that two organisations (Google and Apple) cover 93% of the market. Microsoft is what a friend of mine termed ‘on the phone OS endangered species list’ and frankly, if Microsoft want to do something about that they can afford to. Google has pots of cash and it knows everything about us; I don’t think you need to be even slightly into conspiracy theories to find that a little bit uncomfortable. Do you? Samsung, Apple, Google, Microsoft are all worth in the region of $200 billion. How many of us suffered – and continue to suffer – the consequence of the monopoly of Windows on the desktop? I don’t think we want to allow that to happen to us on our mobile devices. My latest Android phone – the Samsung S3 – is coming up to its first birthday and I have got lost twice in two days because the navigation app doesn’t seem to be able to stay alive for a 4 mile cycle across London. Really? Crashing apps? How very last century.
2) It will feel good
For as little as $20 you can be part of something that could be a catalyst for industrial change. Wow! Crowdfunding is still in its infancy and this could be the very project that helps it go mainstream and big. Can you imagine how Dragon’s Den would be different if the viewers got to vote? Well, this is it. You are a Dragon. Your opinion, your money counts.
3) It’s an open source project
In a recent Guardian article Charles Arthur concluded that: “It’s fairly certain that the project will hit its funding target – there are enough people in the world who think that running open source software confers a sort of magic on a device, and have the spare cash. ”
Open source does not confer magic on a device but the fact that this is an open source project matters enormously. We need this sort of collective thinking and problem solving in order to overcome the pressures we are putting on the planet. Ubuntu running on a phone will not save the world, but the working methods and business models that it represents and breaks can pave the way to new ways of working that change the definition of successful and the definition of reward. Open source is not the only way that business is being reimplemented these days, think Tom’s shoes, for example. More is good.
I was listening to the Chief Medical Officer for England (Professor Dame Sally Davies) being interviewed on BBC Radio 4s Women’s Hour and she listed antimicrobial resistance as the one public health issue that concerns her more than any other. There have been no new classes of antibiotics since the late 80s. As she puts it “we have market failure”. There is not enough money in it. There is not enough money in the business of saving people from flesh eating bacteria.
Money and the making of it will always be a prime motivator.
This project will let you remind the phone industry that you have power and it will tell the world of business that there is another way. We need projects that tread a different path.
And, do you know what? You might just end up with a great device which is running a beautiful and usable operating system.