Canonical has failed to raise enough money to launch a smartphone that doubles as a computer. The company spent 30 days trying to crowd-fund a project called the Ubuntu Edge, which would be a phone with 4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, the ability to run Android and Ubuntu, and to function like a desktop PC when docked to a monitor, keyboard and mouse.
It’s not a big surprise that the Ubuntu Edge project failed. Canonical only planned to bring the device to market if it could raise $32 million in donations from folks interested in buying some of the first devices. That’s more money than any company has ever made from a crowd-funding campaign.
When the campaign ended last night, folks had pledged $12,812,776. That would have made it one of the most successful crowd-funding campaigns to date… if the goal had been lower. As it is, no money will be collected from anyone, and Canonical will go back to making software while leaving hardware design to other companies.
But while the Ubuntu Edge campaign may not have raised enough money for Canonical to actually build a smartphone, it did something else: it grabbed an awful lot of headlines. Over the past month, a lot of people became aware that Ubuntu wasn’t just an operating system for laptops, desktops, and servers anymore.
Canonical’s been working on a touch-friendly version of Ubuntu for over a year. There are early builds that users can download and install on existing phones and tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Google Nexus 7. And for folks that aren’t ready to run Ubuntu as their smartphone operating system, Canonical’s also working on Ubuntu for Android — a system that would let you connect an Android phone to a desktop dock to run Ubuntu desktop apps (such as LibreOffice, GIMP, or Firefox) on a big screen.
The Ubuntu Edge project raised awareness for all of those projects — and showed that thousands of people are willing to spend money to buy a phone that runs Ubuntu software.
The Edge campaign has also shown what a next-generation phone that bridges the divide between mobile and desktop applications could look like and how it could function. Maybe we’ll eventually see phones with PC-like specs.
Meanwhile Canonical continues to work with manufacturers, wireless carriers and others in the hopes of bringing actual phones to market in 2014. Or you could always buy a phone of your own, unlock the bootloader and install Ubuntu yourself — much like you’ve probably done if you ever installed Ubuntu on a Windows computer.