The UbuTab advertised online looks, at first glance, like an actual Ubuntu tablet you can buy online but appears to be nothing more than an unfunded idea. I have not tried to actually purchase one, so I don’t know if you would get an actual tablet if you ordered one. I have not been able to find anyone who has actually received a product, though several people have obviously sent in money. As you will see below, I have my doubts. While it would be a great American success story for a farm girl from Minnesota to take the country by storm with a great Ubuntu tablet, I really don’t see that happening.
You can see the offered products on the UbuTab website which appears as though you could buy a tablet and have it shipped to you at the price listed plus $7.00 for shipping. Clicking the “Buy Now” button takes you to a PayPal portal, so you are certainly free to plunk down some cash if you choose to do so.
They have 4 models: a 500GB HDD model, a 1TB HDD model, a 1TB SSD model and a 64GB flash model, all of which are available with Android or Ubuntu. The site also offers a 3 year warranty and a 60 day return policy. There is no disclaimer that the buyer would not receive an actual tablet, but it does state that units would ship out in April. Kind of a long wait, but who knows. Let’s see if we can find out more.
You can see from their Indiegogo fundraiser they did not meet their goal of $36,000 and the fundraiser closed on December 26, 2014. That seems like an awfully small amount of seed money for doing R&D and building a working prototype, much less actually manufacturing enough units to sell to the general public, even for a one-off run.
In a telling statement on the fundraising site:
“Hopefully the community can bring the UbuTab project to life. My business partner and I had everything lined up to begin production on this tablet when our financing fell through. We had all the suppliers lined up and had already spent countless hours working on the design. We don’t want to see our hard work go to waste and we truly believe there is a large enough market for this to be a success.”
It seems obvious that they are having trouble finding anyone to back them financially. That is a pretty obvious red flag that they don’t have enough in place to intice backers to their project. Financial backers would generally want a working prototype, a business plan, a manufacturer and actual orders. They generally are a little tepid on pure concepts.
Another red flag from the fundraiser:
“*Please note that these images are an artists rendering of the finished product and not the product itself.”
So, does that mean they don’t have an actual model to take a real picture of. If not, what are they selling on their site?
The red flags are really piling up. Another statement from the fundraising site:
“Although we only reached 78% of our goal, we are continuing presales at ubutabshop.com so that we can reach our $36,000 goal. ”
Pre-sales means no sales. They actually don’t have anything to sell yet. I can’t say they they won’t make a few and sell them, but it seems as though they don’t have one you could hold in your hand right now.
Redditors seem to have some harsh words about the whole thing, as they often do:
“$36,000 to make a tablet? Really? Design, fabrication, and manufacture?
The founders bio says:
Hard working farm and city girl with big dreams and endless ambition.
“Growing up on a farm, I learned a lot about hard work and responsibility early on in life. This dedication and work ethic helped me tackle my first 4 years of college. I’m currently perusing my Masters of Education at the University of Minnesota”
Again, a farm girl and aspiring teacher from Minnesota hits it big with a great Ubuntu tablet sounds like a great fantasy, but I think it’s just that; a fantasy.
CaptMorgan74 sums it up pretty well for me:
“No working prototype? No advanced degrees in product design or business? Farm girl from Minnesota? I’m out.”
CyanogenMod is an open source implementation of Android for smart phones. Android enthusiasts often “root” their phones so that they can modify them, remove commercial software and make them operate however they want rather than what the cell phone carrier or Google wants.
In an odd twist, Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella met with the founders of Cyanogen and is considering investing in CyanogenMod to wrest control of the Android operating system away from Google.
Now, Microsoft has not been known to play nice with open source projects, especially ones that compete with their own products. In this case Windows Phone. Recently Microsoft bought out Nokia who is the largest producer of Windows Phones.
I don’t know how this will play out, but Microsoft’s former attempts at building phones in the Android space were embarrassing, and I’m not sure they yet know what to do with open source software. We will just have to wait and see what happens. Perhaps MS is getting a bit desperate and grasping at straws.