Opinion: It was clear early on that the Unbuntu Edge wouldn’t hit its ambitious $32 million funding crowd funding target. After the initial spike of pledges the trend showed it would fall short. But that doesn’t mean it was a failure. In fact there are plenty of reasons why Ubuntu’s campaign should be celebrated.
1. Ubuntu Edge proved people’s interest
This is obvious. While the Ubuntu Edge missed its ambitious target, it still raised $12.8 million and broke the record for crowd funding pledges in the process. That’s a massive endorsement not only of the Ubuntu Edge phone itself, but the confidence people have in Ubuntu.
Most notable was the $80,000 contribution from Bloomberg, a huge and very influential organisation. Without the campaign it would have been all too easy to dismiss the Ubuntu Edge concept: you can’t dismiss it now.
2. Ubuntu Edge exposed the industry’s lack of ambition
Or, to put it another way, it showed Ubuntu is a true leader and innovator when it comes to mobile technology and computing. While Ubuntu is proposing an ambitious and boundary-pushing concept, leading lights like Apple, Samsung and Google are busy squeezing more money out of their flagship brands: Apple with the upcoming budget iPhone 5C; Samsung with endless variants of the Galaxy S4; Google with the mainstream, mass-market products like the Nexus 4 and Nexus 7, albeit with a small hat-tip in the direction of Google Glass.
Don’t mistake me: there’s nothing wrong with providing good quality, mainstream products. But no one can say with a straight face that adding a higher resolution screen, or eye-tracking ‘technology’, is innovation. The big brands are out of ideas, but Ubuntu isn’t.
3. Ubuntu Edge gave Ubuntu worldwide exposure
This article is proof enough that the Ubuntu Edge has done wonders for the Ubuntu’s profile. We don’t write much about Ubuntu as a general rule, yet here I am discussing its merits. And a very unscientific bit of research shows the Ubuntu Edge has given Ubuntu an unprecedented level of exposure.
A search for ‘Ubuntu Edge’ on Google shows 28 million results with coverage on the phone from all the largest media names in the world. Any good PR person will tell you that widespread coverage in mainstream press helps make niche brands soar, and that’s still true even in the age of Twitter, Reddit and Facebook (not Google Plus, don’t be silly).
4. Ubuntu Edge will help Ubuntu find partners
Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu parent company Canonical Ltd, alluded to this point in his final update:
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“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. They’ll have been watching this global discussion of Ubuntu and the need for innovation very closely indeed. Watch this space!”
Of course it’s in his interest to talk this point up, but surely nothing opens doors better than $12 million of genuine support and worldwide publicity? I find it hard to believe there isn’t a phone manufacturer out there that isn’t interested in being associated with making the ‘the first Ubuntu smartphone’ in the same way Asus has become so closely connected as the company behind the hugely successful Nexus 7 and its follow-up, the Nexus 7 2.
5. Ubuntu Edge showed Ubuntu has a future
Momentum is important, just ask Microsoft. The moment your brand or product begins to melt away in the public consciousness, the easier it is for people to write you off as an also-ran.
This is not to say Ubuntu is now a major player: it isn’t. But with computing becoming increasingly mobile, to not have a say and a presence in that space would have made Ubuntu appear irrelevant and jaded. Now the exact opposite is true. Ubuntu has a vision for mobile and everyone (within reason) knows about it.