When booted in Ubuntu and connected to a monitor and keyboard, the phone becomes a desktop PC.
When booted in Ubuntu and connected to a monitor and keyboard, the phone becomes a desktop PC. (Courtesy of Indiegogo/Canonical)

Canonical wants to bring a smartphone capable of replacing the desktop PC to market and all it needs to succeed is the small matter of $32 million in crowd-sourced funding.

The brainchild of UK company Canonical, the Ubuntu Edge is not just a good-looking Android powered smartphone with a 4.5-inch screen, it's a total desktop replacement. Just reboot it, connect it to a monitor and keyboard and start getting productive.

At first glance, it's hard to believe that such a slimline device can pack the same processing punch as a 'proper' PC, but thanks to its combination processor (multi-core), RAM (4GB), storage (128GB) and open-source Ubuntu operating system, its makers claim it can not only keep up with other PCs, when hooked up to peripherals for productivity, it will continue to work as a phone, meaning that you'll never miss a call or text message.

But while the idea of being able to reduce consumer electronics clutter down to a single device -- goodbye tablet, notebook and PC -- there's a catch. Canonical needs an incredible $32 million to take the phone from the prototype to the average consumer's pocket. In order to hit this rather lofty funding goal the company has turned to Indiegogo to launch what is claimed to be the world's biggest crowd-funding campaign to date and has only given itself until August 22 to hit this ambitious target.

Ubuntu, an open-source operating system based on LINUX, has many admirers within the tech and business community and is already installed and running on millions of desktops and notebooks, as well as in the cloud. However, commentators and experts were more than a little skeptical, when the campaign launched on Monday, that it would garner any attention, let alone backing from anyone other than the most die-hard technophiles.


Yet, within 40 hours, the campaign has already passed the $4 million mark and in doing so is 'sold out' of its lowest pledge offering -- 5000 backers have already snapped up a $600 handset, forcing the campaign to offer a number of new tiers. Now handsets with varying levels of exclusivity are also available for $625, $675 and $725 rather than the initial second-level offering of $830.

The typical route to market with such an enterprise is to court Silicon Valley's venture capitalist network, but Canonical says that it has chosen Indiegogo in order to engage directly with early adopters, and to prove the phone's final features -- if a higher resolution screen is a clear demand, or if backers feel they can live without NFC -- then the adjustments will be made to the final handset when it ships in May 2014.

As the company explains in a supporting post, the phone should be viewed in the same way as next year's Formula One racing car, as a test bed for the limits of what is humanly possible: "[It] is a proving ground for the most advanced mobile technologies on the horizon, a showpiece for true mobile innovation. And at the heart of it all is convergence."

So that logic would make the Ubuntu Edge the catalyst for driving the next generation of personal computing, and, judging by the amount raised so far, consumers are not only intrigued, they're on board.