Ubuntu Edge failure and what it means to me
A few days ago I received a credit from Indiegogo, because the USD$600 that I pledged for the Ubuntu Edge didn’t work out (I pledged on day one not because it was cheap but because I felt I needed the device and thank Canonical for the wonderful work they’ve done in addition to being brave about going into new markets; I would have paid $895 if need be – we don’t get heavily subsidised phones where I come from). There was a lot of buzz about how this is the largest crowdfunding experience ever, and so on, but to me, as a believer in opensource, I feel this failure to get an Ubuntu Edge more than ever.
It was by no means a shoddy amount that was pledged, in the sense that it raised USD$12,813,501 out of the USD$32,000,000 goal. I was curious with who pledged, and this is quite public as well – see the pledges list. But what you see is that a lot of people pledged not for the phone but smaller amounts which I guess is a huge problem.
Simply put, you need about 50,000 people (community members/Ubuntu users/etc.) to pledge to buy the phone (at an average sale price of USD$695). A mere 50,000. I planned to analyze the data, but its great that The Guardian did most of the work for me, so read: Ubuntu Edge: how many phones were really ordered – and the mistakes.
14,577 individuals pledged to order the phone. Enterprises were shy by the looks of it.
Out of the 14,577 individuals, I expect many of them to be Ubuntu users to some extent (if not lovers of opensource). Where are the rest of the Ubuntu users?
The public stats for Ubuntu are quite impressive – generally it is the most popular desktop Linux distribution out there. Just look at the adoption & reception: in June 2009, it was estimated that there are 13 million active users; in fall 2011 Canonical itself estimated more than 20 million users worldwide. This number must have grown tremendously, but even at a 20 million base, you’re looking at 0.073% conversion rate to buy an Ubuntu Edge.
I know people that are Ubuntu users and wanted to buy it, but not at the price point. Over $600 for a phone with a computer that docks just isn’t feasible as a cost in many parts of the developing world. Without user registration, we can’t tell where Ubuntu users are located, but I’m willing to bet it’s a good mix between the developed/developing world, right?
I was hoping to hold an Edge in my hand come May 2014. I’m still hoping to hold an Ubuntu mobile device in my hand. While I am disappointed, I can imagine Mark Shuttleworth asking himself a lot of questions. He’s spent millions developing Ubuntu, the community that surrounds it and the commercial aspects around it. Apparently monetizing the userbase is harder than it looks.