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On the Edge of failure: Ubuntu smartphone looks unlikely to reach crowdfunding goal

On the Edge of failure: Ubuntu smartphone looks unlikely to reach crowdfunding goal

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The Edge, a smartphone that runs a mobile edition of the popular desktop OS Ubuntu, will only get made if would-be users pledge $32 million via the crowdfunding site Indiegogo. With a strict time limit of 30 days, this ambitious campaign needs to average more than $1 million per day, however the first half of that period has seen great initial momentum slow down to a crawl. In its 15 days on Indigegogo, the Edge project has attracted $8.3 million in pledges, leaving it nearly $24 million short.

Less than 100 people 'bought' an Ubuntu Edge yesterday

After surging to $3.45 million pledged in the first 24 hours — well ahead of the necessary rate — funding slowed dramatically. The first full week totaled $7.07 million, but 48 percent of that was pledged on the first day. Add on another week and the Edge has only advanced by a million, with its present tally of $8.29 million illustrating the reality of the struggle. The company saw a precipitous 84 percent drop in pledges in week two of the campaign, and in the last full 24-hour day, it only managed to raise $80,000, meaning that less than 100 people opted to "buy" an Edge smartphone yesterday.

The numbers achieved by Canonical, the company responsible for Ubuntu and the Edge project, are quite impressive by the broader standards of web-based crowdfunding. The problem is, as the company admits, that unless the full goal is reached, the Ubuntu Edge simply will not be made — there's no compromise solution. Canonical will, of course, proceed with its plans to bring Ubuntu to smartphones and tablets, however hope for the ideal scenario of having the hardware and software designed in concert appears to be fading fast.

Statisticians believe the campaign will fall at least $10 million short of its goal

Last week, The Guardian reported that statistical consultants at Open Analytics believe the campaign will top out somewhere between $18 million and $22 million — a massive $10 million off its target. But supporters of Canonical believe it's not over yet. Perennial Ubuntu watcher Joey-Elijah Sneddon, editor of OMG! Ubuntu!, believes Canonical "could still pull it off," adding that we have no statistical precedent for a campaign of this size. (And, hours after this report was first published, the Edge got perhaps its most significant backer yet when Bloomberg LP pledged $80,000 to the project. The company is the first to opt for the "Enterprise 100 Bundle" tier.)

Sneddon does note that the low introductory tiers of the Edge — the handset was priced at $600 for the first 5,000 backers, and $625, $650, and $675 tiers were added shortly after — may have "possibly set unrealistic expectations about the cost of the device." It's a fair theory: why would you pay $730 — the current price of the Edge — for something that cost $600 just two weeks ago?

Many crowdfunding projects have reached their goal with last-minute drives, but Canonical's lofty goal could be a step too far. In a bittersweet twist, the Ubuntu Edge may end up claiming the distinction of being the highest-funded campaign of all time, while failing to actually reach its target.

Update: Since this report was published, Canonical has dropped the price of the Ubuntu Edge from $730 to $695.

Vlad Savov contributed to this report.

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