I think this is the right framing. A lot of people would like privacy, but they don’t have the time, energy or knowledge to try and keep their privacy online, and the current hoops that you have to jump through are so high to maintain your privacy, that even people who care about these issues rarely do them. If privacy means giving up social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and all the convenience and easy communication from online services, then most people decide to throw out privacy. If companies start offering convenient ways to keep people’s privacy, then the market size is potentially enormous. The market for people who value software freedom is smaller, but it is probably also in the millions if it were a competitive option.
We are the early adopters, who are willing to pay a lot for a bulky phone with lower specs and we are willing to deal with all the hiccups of a developing platform that will have very few apps and probably some bugs along the way, because we really value privacy and freedom.
However, as hundreds and then thousands of apps are added, and Purism improves mobile Linux as a platform and improves its online services and the hardware specs improve in subsequent versions, it will become easier and more convenient for people to start switching. The good thing about Purism is that it is trying to create a new ecosystem of mobile Linux and privacy web services based on free software, that will grow over time and attract more users. If Purism can prove the market, then other companies will jump in and drive down prices and offer more apps and more online services based on privacy and freedom. The more people who are using mobile Linux, developing GTK and HTML5 apps, and running Mastadon, XMPP and Matrox servers and using encrypted email, the more investment and development will be poured into the ecosystem, and the momentum will grow until we have a viable alternative to Google, Facebook, Twitter and surveillance capitalism in general.
I am very appreciative of the engineering that is going into the Librem 5, but I didn’t put down $599 in the crowdfunding campaign because I thought that the hardware in the Librem 5 was worth $599 or now $699. The most I ever paid for a phone before the Librem 5 was $210, but I want to live in a world where people can have digital rights, software freedom, and online privacy, so I’m willing to pay 3 times as much for a phone if the company making it is working toward those goals.
I want the hardware to be good, because it will attract more buyers, earn better reviews and generate more buzz for mobile Linux and grow the ecosystem, but I would have pre-ordered the Librem 5 even if it had worse hardware specs. I think the long game to create a new mobile ecosystem is far more important than worrying about how the Librem 5 compares to the OnePlus 7.