Earlier today news of the fate of the could-have-been legendary Ubuntu Edge smartphone, which was served up as a crowd source fund on IndieGoGo, surfaced saying it failed to reach its end goal of $32 million dollars. The device did, however, manage to create a name for itself still by having the most amount of money pledged to a crowdsourcing fund at $12,809,906, but of course this ultimately wasn't what the company had been asking for in order to start production on this phone immediately. But despite failing the goal to kick off that intriguing Ubuntu Edge smartphone, Canonical still seems to win in more ways than they lose.
CES 2013 is when we first saw official previews of the Ubuntu Touch software running on Android devices. Ubuntu, already being a successful free and open sourced platform for PCs, already has a leg up on competition by already having a successful OS out on the market. My interest in the platform was pretty great once I saw that Ubuntu was planning on making an OS for mobile as well, but I still had to wonder if there was a place in the world for up-and-coming platforms as the smartphone market is already heavily one-sided in the favor of Android and iOS. Windows Phone and BlackBerry are already fighting for the lowest end of the smartphone market, with the percentage of users that use either platform not even reaching double-digits. The more I think about it, though, the more I think that Canonical's main purpose of coming out with a mobile OS might take it farther than I give it credit for.
It's been clear that the purpose of bringing Ubuntu to mobile was to try and bridge a gap between mobile, tablet and PC usage. Although other companies have thus far done a good job of making their platforms pretty universal across the board (Apple's iOS, iPad, iPod Touch, Macbooks; Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8; Android tablets and phones). Ubuntu wants to be the same way by having one universal layout across the board, but the difference is that Canonical also aims to kill two birds with one stone; by having Ubuntu for phones on your mobile device, you can run that same OS on your PC simply by plugging it in to your computer. Suddenly, your phone and all the files on it are now seamlessly integrated with your PC without having to bother with transferring anything or even taking up extra space on your actual computer's hard drive. Your PC is your phone.
To me, the concept isn't exactly mind-blowing so much as it just makes sense. I think we have all pretty much come to terms with the fact that our phones are computers at this point, and often times even coming out ahead of computers that are only a few years old. As smartphones only continue to progress in both speed and amount of memory, it's making more and more sense to just have to worry about one device holding all, or most, of the information. Although the amount of memory we currently have available to us on our smartphones at the moment is just a fraction of what most notebooks can offer us, it doesn't seem like such a far off dream that soon our phones will be able to hold hundreds of gigabytes of memory (especially if the reported specs of the Ubuntu Edge device was any indication of what we can expect soon).
It doesn't hurt that the Ubuntu Touch UI is absolutely gorgeous (in my opinion), well polished and seems to be running extremely smoothly despite its early stages - something that one of our other top competitors at the moment, Android, did not have the luxury of whenever it was first getting started. Then again, Android also came in at a point in time where people were actively trying to come up with alternatives for Apple, who was unquestionably king of all smartphones at the beginning, at least when it came to sales. There was an avid support system to make Android what it is today given the circumstances, and right now it remains unclear whether Ubuntu is likely to gain as much support with four established platforms on the market.
Although the Ubuntu Edge campaign had almost 20,000 people pledge something to the device, it's still a very small figure in a world where millions of people are using smartphones. Millions more are adopting the concept every day. However, great ideas don't always start off with millions upon millions of people wanting to use something before it's even complete. I am starting to wonder if perhaps I have been underestimating the future potential of Ubuntu Touch. Although smartphones right now aren't necessarily designed to run an entire OS from it, we probably aren't that far off from smartphones that are. I'll admit that this campaign did its job in keeping me interested in Ubuntu's shift from PC to mobile, and in some ways made it more clear what Canonical's goal is when it comes to bringing mobile and PC together. Now that Ubuntu Edge is out of the question for a while, hopefully they'll push forward more aggressively with Ubuntu Touch. I know I'm ready to see some Ubuntu action after all this talk of convergence.
Readers, what do you think about Ubuntu Touch? Is this an OS that you think you could get on board with? Would you use your phone as your entire computer if it was powerful enough, or would you prefer to keep the two separate? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!