I wonder if some VC company could fund ED or some other startup that could market and mass-produce the Pyra. I suspect a number of IT professionals might appreciate one. Maybe some market research could be done - phone questionnaire to 1000 IT workers, describing the unit and and asking about their interest level?
I would highly doubt this kind of machine is interesting anywhere outside a niche of emulation gamers / devs. If it did then Sharp or Sony (who did umpcs in the past) would definitely jump in, but it never went anywhere for the simple reason that people want the thinnest, lightest phones in the world with the largest screens and the thinnest, lightest laptops in the world with the largest screens. Obviously all big brands do the research you suggest and come up with the basic common denominator; light, thin, cheap. Even big brands like Sharp or Sony have never been able to make a device like that; small nor cheap. The Zaurus family from Sharp was *perfect* at the time (and formfactor it is even now, just highly underpowered); so was the Psion series. But they all got beaten in the face by Palm and then feature phones and then smartphones. Some of them (Psion/Palm and to an extend Blackberry) never survived the ordeal.
And there is another issue; the OS. We (the Pyra community) wants freedom I believe. I am not sure about that, but reading these forums I choose to believe it. There are only a handful of vendors doing Linux machines; sure Linux runs on all chromebooks, core of Android, most higher spec embedded devices, but that is not exposed to the user. When exposed to the user, this Linux has to be polished more and it has to conform to updates from a specific distro. Even if using blobs for drivers, the specific parts for the device have to be maintained and kept up to date. In this case it would mean the investors have to see money in that, because that's an effort which they either have to trust the community doing (which investors won't be big fans of anyway) or someone has to pay for that because the hardware is one-off. If I would make this device (so if I would be ED and I am definitely not , I would sell it at cost, but with an automatic subscription maintenance/support fee of like 75,-/year with 1 mandatory year at point of buying. Make a closed support forum (just one of the forums, the rest open) and distribute 50,-( times number of paying support users) out to valid answering members (with some threshold and some % per valuable answer), keep 25,- per user per year for making it happen (these are random numbers ofcourse; it would need having insight in a lot more to make these numbers fit, but many more would buy). Because now it has mobile access, do as mobile does; you can make deals with carriers or just use their affiliate deals. I would open a market where you can pay for requests, like E100 for someone who will give me a recipe I can run on my Pandora/Pyra to run i3wm on it as default WM (should be easy with the Pyra and Debian, but is pain under Pandora). Or Sponsor: E50 for a Video how to do x,y,z. Or Trying to raise E2000 for a really cool phone dialer app => pay online via this market and when reaches/goes over 2000, it is crowdsourced. ED keeps 10%, rest goes to the best answer. Many successful examples of this online even though the Pandora had some bad luck crowdfunding at first, well not the funding but... Keeping it in-house works. But I digress. Those would be things investors want to hear anyway and if ED + community would not agree with it, they would not be very interested. I would do this without investors, because I think with the right balance or pre-ordering, crowdfunding and affiliate sales, you can make a good living out of this for 2 people doing this fulltime.
If the world was a slightly better place, and this is even true in the case of Pandora or Pyra, hardware would be more open. Because if I buy a E100,- Android, take it apart and put a slim clamshell case around it, I have, in some ways, a cheap, more advanced device than the Pyra. However, it won't have the ports, but even if I don't care about that; it doesn't have the software. It'll run Android. And as much as I like and use Android; it's awful for productivity. There is no way (well there is, but that's serious uphill struggle as all these Chinese SoCs are closed and awful to hack on) to put linux (or anything else) on it.
Personally, I am a coder and I use Linux almost exclusively for everything, but I highly depend on the build-essentials and aptitude with the latest repositories for my work. I believe this community (Pyra) if investor backed, would have to jump to Windows 10 to get enough installs. And then already you are becoming a mainstream provider and you will notice that people will not want the keyboard on; only hackers do. People will say; why not just a little tablet with a stand and a BLE keyboard? Which immediately makes you compete with MS-Nokia... And where is the fun in that even if you had a chance?