The Ubuntu Edge may never be made, but Ubuntu Mobiles are one step closer to a reality, says Steve McCaskill
That Canonical failed to meet its $32 million (£20.8m) crowdfunding target for the Ubuntu Edge should come as no great surprise to anyone as, despite an initial flurry of interest, it never looked likely the project would succeed.
In the end it achieved a third of its funding goal of $12,809,906 (£8,228,625), becoming the world’s biggest ever fixed crowdfunding campaign. Having repeatedly stressed it would not be manufactured if this target was missed, it now appears likely that this is the end of the Ubuntu Edge.
But Ubuntu Mobile is now in a stronger place than it was before the campaign, which has succeeded in its secondary aim of raising awareness of the platform and its vision of ‘converged computing’ while also demonstrating the demand for such a device to other manufacturers.
Even 48 hours before funding ended, CEO Mark Shuttleworth was asking supporters to contribute and spread the word, despite any realistic chance of the funding goal being met having long since evaporated. Even Stephen Fry got in on the act, encouraging his six million followers to show their support.
It is probable many of the 20,000 people and businesses that pledged hundreds of pounds for a phone that doesn’t exist knew the project was doomed to failure but still wanted to show their interest.
A lack of manufacturer support has been cited as the greatest weakness of Ubuntu Mobile, especially when there are three other open source mobile operating systems – Firefox OS, Sailfish and Tizen – all looking to compete against Apple and Android.
“Ubuntu will have the smallest appeal because it has a niche proportion of users – hardcore Linux users – and they don’t have the backing of any major device makers,” Annette Jump, of research firm Gartner, told TechWeekEurope recently.
Canonical itself said the Ubuntu Edge was “deliberately ambitious” and a statement of intent. Shuttleworth, Fry and the Ubuntu community all knew the more money that was raised, the more likely it was to be noticed – and it has been.
“All of the support and publicity has continued to drive our discussions with some major manufacturers, and we have many of the world’s biggest mobile networks already signed up to the Ubuntu Carrier Advisory Group,” said Shuttleworth, thanking the Ubuntu community for its support. “They’ll have been watching this global discussion of Ubuntu and the need for innovation very closely indeed.”
The Ubuntu Edge might never see the light of day, and it is debatable whether Canonical ever thought it would, but the record-breaking crowdfunding campaign means Ubuntu Mobile devices are a step closer to reality.
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