Canonical’s Ubuntu Edge crowdfunding dream is over. So what’s next for Ubuntu mobile?

Ubuntu Edge

Here’s what may be the least surprising news of the month so far: The Ubuntu Edge crowdfunding campaign has failed to meet its $32 million goal. In fact, it didn’t even get halfway — early on Thursday morning, the campaign ended with $12,809,906 pledged.

It’s been clear for a long time that this would happen. There was an initial burst of enthusiasm from Canonical’s fanbase and others who wanted a very highly-specified concept smartphone that doubles as a PC when hooked up to a keyboard and monitor, but after that, pledging levels were just too low.

Broadly speaking, though, no one loses. The beauty of crowdfunding campaigns such as this one, hosted on Indiegogo, is that pledges only apply if targets are met. Now, the Ubuntu Edge simply won’t get made, and no one’s out of pocket.

Even Canonical, which has suffered a minor humiliation here, has a spring in its step. After all, the Ubuntu Edge did break a record for the most funds pledged in a crowdfunding campaign ever. As the campaign failed, though, the Pebble smartwatch gets to hang on to its title for the most funds actually raised.

In a statement on the campaign page, Mark Shuttleworth and his Canonical team wrote:

“The big winner from this campaign is Ubuntu. While we passionately wanted to build the Edge to showcase Ubuntu on phones, the support and attention it received will still be a huge boost as other Ubuntu phones start to arrive in 2014. Thousands of you clearly want to own an Ubuntu phone and believe in our vision of convergence, and rest assured you won’t have much longer to wait.

“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!”

Canonical really has two things to trumpet to those potential industry partners: the Edge’s fund-pledging record and the major slap on the back it got from Bloomberg, which had pledged to pick up 100 of the things.

Bloomberg knows a smart tool when it sees one, and I suspect the best home for Ubuntu’s convergence tack – if indeed it finds a home – will be in business. It would represent a cost-efficient approach for many corporate customers. And with BlackBerry on its way out and the shadow of the NSA looming over Android and iOS (a particular concern for firms outside the U.S.), perhaps there’s an emerging gap in that market.

The campaign was fun but doomed. Canonical would be wise to focus its efforts on enterprise now.

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