Canonical’s Ubuntu Edge croudfunding effort, though in many respects impressive, seems the most paradoxically ill-fated campaign ever: the largest all-or-nothing Indiegogo launch ever attempted, the Edge is somehow smashing records while showing absolutely no sign of reaching its $32 million goal. A limited number of pricy funding tiers probably hurt momentum, as did vague shipping promises. There is some good news for the folks at Canonical, though: Bloomberg LP pledged support yesterday for the Edge at the Enterprise level, equivalent to an $80,000 investment. That may’ve motivated the company to cut unit price to a mere $695 – a significant reduction. Is it already too late for the Edge, though?
First, a little about the Edge. Canonical bills the device as a “superphone,” a combination smartphone and computer. The company says the Ubuntu, the Linux-based operating system the handheld runs, has the flexibility needed to provide both a great smartphone and desktop experience, potentially eliminating the need for a dedicated computer. Ultimately, Canonical’s vision is of a singular device with minimal bulk capable of accomplishing everyday computational tasks. Forget about Jobs’ post-PC era; imagine a world with nothing but phone docks and monitors. It’s like Motorola’s Atrix, but presumably executed better. A lot better.
Not a fan of Ubuntu or desktop functionality shoehorned into a phone form factor? There’s always the other Linux-based mobile OS. See, maturation is important, and Ubuntu’s inchoate mobile OS just isn’t there yet. In acknowledgement of that, Canonical says the Edge would come with a pre-installed Android partition. If the Edge were ever to be made, it’d officially be the most powerful Android device on the market with 4GB of RAM, a fast quad-core processor, and 128 GB of internal storage. Not bad.
If the Edge is so great, why has it failed to reach its funding goal? Pricepoint and availability probably has something to do with it. Initially, the smartphone was only available for purchase at the $600 and up level, and those spots went quickly. Canonical had the sense to offer more Edge units at a discount, but the company now has to sell roughly 33,000 phones to have the slightest chance of reaching its lofty goal. Even if Enterprise bundles sell in earnest, it’s unlikely Canonical can overcome a $20 million shortfall in less than two weeks.
The Edge has so much promise, but may’ve been destined for failure; it’s unclear exactly how serious Canonical is about actually manufacturing a smartphone. Maybe the Edge will launch one day, but for now the project looks dead in the water.