Canonical , Ubuntu's parent company, made a bet. It wagered that there were enough visionaries out there to crowd-source 32-million dollars for the first Linux-powered combination smartphone/PC, the Ubuntu Edge. It seems that the company will lose that wager, but in the long-run, I think Canonical will rise from the gadget gaming table a winner.
First, even with Bloomberg backing the Ubuntu Edge campaign, the odds are growing against the Ubuntu Edge project reaching its goal. Even dropping the device's price to $695 on August 8th hasn't been enough to kick-start the project. As of August 11th, with 10 days left in the Ubuntu Edge Indiegogo campaign, Canonical has raised only $9.5-million toward its goal.
To the best of my knowledge that's the most that's ever been raised in a commercial, time-limited crowdsourced project. Still, it's not enough.
Some people hope that Mark Shuttleworth, Canonical and Ubuntu's founder, will ride in at the 11th hour and rescue the project. That seems unlikely. Indeed Canonical has told the Guardian (UK) newspaper that "If we don't reach our target there won't be an Ubuntu Edge."
Shuttleworth won't lose any sleep over it. He told CNet that "Tripling the crowdfunding record is always a super-ambitious goal." But, "It's also clear that this work is ancillary to the broader mission of bringing Ubuntu to the market."
Ubuntu may be the biggest fish in the Linux desktop pond, but it's a minnow in the smartphone and general technology world. The Ubuntu Edge project did capture the imagination of companies, such as Bloomberg, that otherwise would barely notice Canonical.
Shuttleworth also said This is not about an Ubuntu phone. This is about changing the innovation dynamic." That's also true, and it's a key point.
Canonical is far from the first company to talk about a hybrid all-in-one computing device. It's the first I know of that had an operating system, Ubuntu, and an interface, Unity that can run across smartphones, tablets, and PCs.
As ZDNet's Jason Perlow said recently , "For Shuttleworth's vision to become a reality, you need platform unification. In other words, the smartphone, tablet and desktop OS need to become the same operating system, the same developer target and ultimately, the same device."
I think that's exactly where our technology is going. Even if the Ubuntu Edge doesn't happen, Canonical has positioned itself as a visionary company in this new form of computing.
Someone, and soon, will start building these all-in-one devices. I strongly suspect Canonical will be involved in these projects even if they don't lead them. Then, as the mashup of smartphone/PC hybrids starts to take hold in both consumer and IT computing, Canonical will reap the benefits of its early moves.
So win, lose, or draw on Ubuntu Edge, Canonical is now positioned with the Linux community, the larger public, and potential partners as the company that thinks big about computing's future. That's a good place to be.