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Ubuntu Edge fails to raise $32m but remains a record-breaking project

Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth says the attention was a "huge boost" to Ubuntu phones in general

The ambitious Ubuntu Edge crowdfunding project has failed, raising a record-breaking sum of $12,809,906 but still falling far short of its $32m goal.

Touting the Edge as ‘the future of the phone’, London-based developers Canonical hoped that their hardware would not only serve as a portable computer but also introduce a new business model to the industry – a “premium segment” sponsored by enthusiasts and experts.

The Edge would have come with dual-chip LTE to offer 4G access in both the US and Europe, 128GB of internal storage, 4GB of RAM and a 4.5-inch screen made from sapphire crystal. It also would have dual-booted Android and Ubuntu and used an unspecified processor to make it “a potent little PC when docked.”

Despite the failure of the project Mark Shuttleworth, Canonical’s CEO, is still bullish about the outcome. “The big winner from this campaign is Ubuntu,” said Shuttleworth in an official statement. “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.”

Shuttleworth also revealed that only a single company – Bloomberg – had coughed up the $80,000 necessary for the campaign’s “Enterprise” reward tier, which would have meant a bundle of 115 phones.

Most of the funds for the campaign were raised during the announcement of the project, with the first-day only price of $600 for a phone tempting 5,044 customers, and hundreds more buying the Edge at the later price of $695.

Speaking to Charles Arthur at the Guardian, Shuttleworth stated that he believes there is still space in the market to break away from the duopoly of Android and Apple: “The impression we have from conversations with manufacturers is that they are open to an alternative to Android."

The ideal market for a proposed Ubuntu phone would be the 25 per cent of users, that Shuttleworth says demand a smartphone but just use it as a phone: they don’t buy apps, they don’t use large amounts of data, and for that reason they don’t generate much revenue for carriers.

This proposal doesn’t exactly tally with the ultra-high-end device that was proposed with the Edge, but it seems that the campaign’s failure (and it is a failure, in a very important sense) has caused Canonical and Shuttleworth to reappraise their approach.