After an eye-popping pitch for a futuristic, dual-booting smartphone-desktop hybrid, the Ubuntu Edge secured the world record for crowdfunding on August 15th, with $10,266,845 pledged. It's since been boosted up to $12.8 million, but unfortunately, that's a far cry from the $32 million that the Canonical company asked for. The Indiegogo campaign has failed, no sponsors will be charged, and no money will be collected.
Say what you will about Canonical and founder Mark Shuttleworth's outlandish goal, but the conceptual hardware and software for the Ubuntu Edge is the stuff that smartphone dreams are made of. A unibody chamfered metal housing, a synthetic sapphire screen, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage are among its highlights. But the real magic is that it would have run Android and Ubuntu Smartphone, plus a full desktop version of Ubuntu when docked with a monitor, keyboard and mouse. There were more than five thousand people willing to pledge $600 or more, just for the promise of a phone that was still a year away at best. And that doesn't include more about $180,000 given by just 12 donors, with Bloomberg LP pledging $80,000 for the Enterprise bundle of 115 phones and industrial support.
Of course, Shuttleworth is no fool - he had to be prepared for the possible or even likely failure of the Edge product. Even if nothing ever comes out of it, he's managed to grab a month's worth of headlines for the Ubuntu Smartphone OS, which is on track to be loaded on retail phones from OEM partners sometime in 2014. An overly cynical commenter might claim that Ubuntu Edge is nothing but a publicity stunt with Indiegogo as an unwitting partner, and a sympathetic one might say that it's a Hail Mary shot at a dream for the open-source community. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.
But don't give up hope yet. Canonical still managed to secure more than $12 million in theoretical funding, even if they don't actually get the money. (The previous record holder was the Pebble smartwatch, which is still the most successful crowdfunding campaign to pay out.) And that figure hasn't gone unnoticed from the movers and shakers in the hardware world. Shuttleworth told the BBC that at least some "large manufacturers" had already expressed interest.
"The campaign has sparked a level of interest that has surprised even us," he said, adding that it had seized the attention not only of phone enthusiasts but innovators and futurists as well as manufacturers. He added that some large manufacturers had come "out of the woodwork" to discuss the device with him.
Keep your fingers crossed, folks.