Canonical’s critical mistake with the Ubuntu Edge

Canonical created Ubuntu, which is a very popular Linux distro based on Debian. It’s also my favorite Linux distro. They’ve done a lot of awesome stuff with it over the years, and most recently, they’ve created a mobile OS spinoff – and then they wanted a phone to go with it.

So they sat down and came up with the Ubuntu Edge. It’s definitely a sexy device, everything about it looks amazing and it’s definitely something very exciting – an phone running Ubuntu that can be a desktop computer when you need it to be? Totally next-gen right there. But Canonical apparently can’t afford to make them themselves – so they started a crowd-sourcing campaign to raise money for production, which is all well and good, but Canonical made a serious mistake:

They set a goal of $32 million.

To really understand how major a mistake this is, consider how Canonical is built. They’re the company behind Ubuntu, which is free, and everyone expects it to be free as well as the software that comes with it, because that’s the way Linux is, and the way the community is. When you talk about Linux to someone you assume it’s completely free, of course.

Now this doesn’t mean that the Ubuntu Edge should be free, it’s just Canonical’s following are most likely clutching their thin wallets quite tightly. And I believe Canonical severely overestimated how popular the Ubuntu Edge would/might have been, as well as how willing people are to donate this kind of money to the production of a phone. It would have made far more sense to set a goal of about $10 million and made a short production run for the backers and so they have stock available for if it actually gets popular, and then as profits rolled in they could have made more phones with that money. I don’t claim to be a manufacturing expert, but this seems reasonable to me.

The $32 million goal Canonical set raises some questions as well. Is there a hidden reason behind this? Is Canonical having financial difficulty and made an attempt to save themselves through fundraising for a phone? Or are they trying to climb out of a hole they dug for themselves when they had a team design the phone?

I guess we’ll see. But in the meantime, with 60 hours left on the IndieGoGo campaign and only about 30% of the money raised, it’s obviously not working out the way they wanted it to.