Ubuntu Edge Fails to Meet Funding Goal: I Told you So!


The Ubuntu Edge failed to meet the lofty 32 million dollar crowd funding goal that Canonical set.  I hate to say I told you so, but I did back when the campaign first started. Is this a success for Canonical and Mark Shuttleworth or a failure?  Read on for more.

The campaign ended a few days ago, and there are many different opinions swirling around the net about this.  Some say that it set the crowd funding record.  I say it didn’t.  Why?  It didn’t fund! They raised 12.8 million dollars which is impressive, but because of how they set up their campaign, it all has to go back.

Why did it fail?

First, like I said at the beginning, many Linux based phones have failed and are still failing.  This phone is too techy for it to get mainstream acceptance.  While I love the idea of plugging the phone into a dock, and having a fullsized Ubuntu desktop at my fingertips is totally appealing to me and a lot of my Linux friends; is this appealing to the rest of the world?  No.

The Ubuntu Edge was also set to be a phone that would dual boot between Ubuntu OS and Android. Other than total geeks like me, who would want to dual boot their laptop let alone their phone?  No one.

Finally, even if it was a success and had raised the 32 million they wanted, it probably still wouldn’t have been enough. For proof, look no further than Microsoft and the Surface RT.  Microsoft took a 900 million dollar LOSS on the Surface RT. They sold around one million Surface RT devices. Asus themselves have stepped away from Windows 8 RT as well.

What do they need to do to make it a success?

The concept itself is interesting, but there are many things they should change before the attempt it again.  First, they should probably look into ditching the dock idea.  It sounds interesting, but I don’t think that the mobile hardware is there yet to pull that off. They weren’t the first to come up with that idea.  Bill Gates himself predicted this in his 1995 book titled “The Road Ahead”. Bill called the device a Wallet PC. Something you carry around with you all the time. The smartphone is the closest we have to that, but with the current hardware available it’s just not feasible yet. It will happen, but I don’t think people are ready for it yet.

Also, I think they need to embrace the community that made it what it is today — the general Linux community.  They should put this mobile stuff on the back burner for a while and engage the Linux community; they need to find out what the community thinks they did wrong. They should answer for things like the Unity Interface and the Mir graphics engine and return to their roots, so to speak. This would show a lot of good will to those in the Linux community that think they have lost their way.

Once they have made up with the Linux community, they should try to make not one, but two devices.  They could even do what Google has been doing with Android.  Offer up a straightforward device that’s geared for the every day user. Then offer up the same phone with the ability to hack the heck out of it. Put full-fledged Linux apps on it.  At that point, they’d have BOTH the regular users and the developers, because you have to appeal to both sets of people; otherwise this will just be another failed Linux phone project.

While the Ubuntu Edge project got a lot of press coverage, it still ended up failing.  It still did some amazing things for crowd funding. It also got the Ubuntu name in front of the mainstream by appearing on CNNMoney. Many people had probably never heard of Ubuntu before this, and if they’re curious — now they can try the desktop I already use every day. That ain’t all bad.

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About the Author

Joel McLaughlin
Joel is a consultant in the IT field and is located in Columbus, OH. While he loves Linux and tends to use it more than anything else, he will stoop to running closed source if it is the best tool for the job. His techno passions are Linux, Android, netbooks, GPS, podcasting and Amateur Radio.

3 Comments on "Ubuntu Edge Fails to Meet Funding Goal: I Told you So!"

  1. >many Linux based phones have failed and are still failing

    I know, right? The Samsung Galaxy series, the Droid series, the HTC One series, and the LG Optimus series have all done so poorly! 🙂

    The fact of the matter is, the Edge was expected to (I almost say DESIGNED) fail. Shuttleworth himself has said as much. It was a PR play to show that an Ubuntu phone had enough interest to work. As for your “Offer up a straightforward device that’s geared for the every day user”… yes, that’s going to happen. Ubuntu phones are going to happen from the start. They’ll just be starting from the other end of the spectrum now,

    • As for other Linux phones failing…Android is the one shining light that is burning very brightly. Maemo, Tizen, Mer and Openmoko all had a promise of bringing Linux to a phone but have failed to do what Android did.

      I still don’t think that any phone manufacturer should even consider Ubuntu on the phone. What does it do that Android doesn’t? Nothing.

      • Let’s go down the list:

        Maemo/MeeGo: This wasn’t a phone-based OS to begin with. Surely you must remember Nokia’s Internet Tablets? It was press-ganged into service for phones only after Nokia realized that Symbian wasn’t going to cut it anymore. And by the time the N900 came out it was already too little (billed as a hacker device), too late (2010). It failed because nobody–not even Nokia–took it seriously.

        Tizen: It’s Samsung’s backup plan. You can’t build your own OS overnight, and you might as well make some money off it once you have one by putting it in some phones, TVs, and car stereos. This is why Samsung is so adamant about skinning Android so heavily: drop TouchWiz on it and your average consumer wouldn’t know a difference as long as they can Like their friends, stream Netflix and play Angry Birds on it (all apps of which have been in development for a while and ready to go at a drop of a hat).

        Openmoko: Setting aside the fact that the OS looked like mutant Winamp that had escaped from its cage, do you remember what their first phone (back in February 2007… er, I mean April–no, wait Jun..ly. Yes, July. But for developers only. They only had 200 phones to go around, you know.) looked like? ‘Nuff said.

        Mer: Mer never had a first-party release. I’m guessing you mean Sailfish, which (with all due respect) is an ego project that is ultimately the result of some Nokia engineers who were/are unable to let MeeGo go, so to speak.

        So the OSes you mention either didn’t have enough money to succeed or isn’t the priority of its main backer. And if you’re going to put Mer up in the same category as Maemo and Tizen, we might as well mention Firefox OS. Because I guess Mozilla aspires to be Google’s good twin?

        You ask, why Ubuntu? My answer is, China. You wouldn’t need a dual-boot phone in China; the population is already familiar with Ubuntu. The PRC has adopted Ubuntu as the nation’s OS. Plenty of PCs in China are sold with Ubuntu. Heck, people can play League of Legends (only the most popular video game in the world!) on Ubuntu, with a little help. So why buy a computer and a phone when you can have both in a smaller, cheaper package?

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