Ars Technica thinks Ubuntu Edge is toast. I’m inclined to agree. It’s sad, but $32 million was just too ambitious as a target. Even the new price drop is unlikely to have much of an impact. $695 is just too much to drop on a phone that you won’t see for another year.
Then again, the Edge has always suffered from a bit of an identity crisis. The idea of a phone which can also operate as a full PC is an attractive idea. I have to haul my PC, a 15” retina MacBook Pro, to and from work (across London) every day. As a maxed-out HiDPI hunk of power it is, easily, the best PC I have ever used, but it’s bulky. Not even particularly heavy, just a pain to have to strap to my back and carry on the Central line each day.
The idea of replacing this with a phone that I can dock when I get to work is all well and good, until you consider the tradeoffs. The Ubuntu Edge will come with 4GB of RAM and 128GB internal storage. My personal laptop has 4GB of RAM (which it regularly fills through heavy use) and 500GB of storage (which is nearly completely full.)
For the kind of people who crave a PC-in-a-phone device most, the Edge will be underpowered. For a phone, it may well turn out to be overpowered—we won’t know for sure about the battery life until the device is released (if it ever is) but I strongly doubt that such a powerful machine, running a desktop operating system, would be able to last a full day on one charge.
Then there’s the price. $695 is an OK (though not exceptional) price for a phone, if you could walk into a shop and buy it today. For a phone that you won’t get for a year (at which point, from a PC perspective, it will seem even more hideously underpowered) it was always going to be a hard sell.
And then there was the target. $32 million, for a device using unproven technology that won’t be released for a year, is simply too much. Even the current surge after the drop in price means that over forty-six thousand people would need to pony up for a device they wouldn’t be getting until next year. Clearly, Canonical are betting big on large orders from businesses—but when have you known big businesses to sink, in droves, hundreds of thousands of dollars on an unproven device?
It feels awful to be writing an obituary for the Ubuntu Edge so soon. Ubuntu is a great operating system, and the Edge was a lovely idea. It’s just a shame it seemed to be doomed from the outset.