Librem 14 will begin shipping in December with all backorders shipped in January and reaching shipping parity in February.
While our plan was to be able to start shipping devices early Q4, which would be about now, a couple of recent industry-wide developments caused a few delays. We are at least as disappointed as you are, but on the other hand we also do not want to rush some half-baked solution forward but instead want to stay focused on what we planned—making the ideal laptop—because we are convinced that this is what we all want.
The first issue to resolve happened some weeks ago. There was frequent news about Intel not being able to satisfy the demand of current CPU generations, especially the ones for laptops. This is nothing new, it happened several times in the past and so far we have not been affected by it because we have been able to source from different CPU distributors. About six weeks ago we got confirmation from a few CPU distributors that there are not enough i7-10710U CPUs for the full mass production of the Librem 14. Through perseverance and having connections with a preferred Intel partner we were able to expedite sourcing of the CPUs, but still with a lead time of about eight weeks along with a significant down payment and pre-order volume that we had to place for these CPUs. By procuring enough CPUs for mass production—though later than we wanted—we are able to get a more accurate delivery and know we are likely to begin shipping in December, with orders being fully delivered in January, and reaching shipping parity in February.
The second issue—albeit smaller—was coreboot, PureBoot, and EC development that couldn’t start in earnest until after producing EVT (Engineering Validation Test) samples, including our full Purism-designed main board with two SO-DIMM slots, two M.2 SSD slots, TPM, kill switches, type-C charging, type-C video out etc. We are now working on the software side, especially coreboot and PureBoot support as well as a lot of work on the Embedded Controller firmware. The Embedded Controller (EC) is a very important part in this laptop, it controls peripherals like the fans, status LEDs, the keyboard and also battery charging. With this new Librem 14 we want to implement a lot in the EC on our own and invested a lot in getting all the necessary tools for doing so. This work is proceeding rapidly and we are very happy that we can finally do it! The EC firmware is usually a pretty closed thing but now we can change it and eventually also free it, albeit this will probably come in a second step later since we are continuing to work on it as our goal!
The third issue encompasses a handful of minor mechanical changes we desire after producing the EVT samples, such as sourcing the wrong TFT panel that we are exchanging. All of these issues are not insurmountable, each issue by itself is rather minor, but they need to get addressed and fixed in the final product. We want this product to be as good as possible and not some compromise. Some issues require redoing tooling, some other require changes in the main board and some others again renegotiation with suppliers. Redoing a main board PCB takes at least about three to four weeks, just to give you an idea. Modifying mechanical tooling can take even longer. We are moving things as fast as possible without impacting quality (which is not negotiable for us).
Another issue which showcases the challenges of producing complex custom hardware during a pandemic we learned one of our suppliers of specific metal parts went out of business. We were able to secure all parts needed, so luckily this is not a problem, it just added some time delay, and negotiating a new supply chain for those parts.
Now that we are back on track, with a month or so delay, we expect to produce a second round of EVT samples within about two to three weeks which may double as PVT (production validation testing) and if this is the case, which we expect, we will very quickly kick off mass production. The current conservative estimate is that we will produce product by mid of December.
We are really sorry for this production delay. This pandemic is causing major issues, for private lives and business. Supply chains are not as reliable as
they used to be, factories suddenly close down or output is very limited. Making plans has become much more challenging. We are doing our very best to remedy everything quickly. Please stay with us, we will update you as soon as we have confirmed news to share.