Ubuntu Edge Stops Just Short of the Edge

The lofty ambitions of Canonical to crowd-fund $32 million in order to produce the Ubuntu Edge “superphone” is looking just a little too lofty at this point in time. As it stands, the efforts of Canonical and backers have only managed to scrounge together 28% of the target with little time remaining (just under 2 weeks as of writing). Even taking into consideration the typical backing “spikes” which are common at the beginning and end of the crowdfunding life cycle, it’s highly likely that the Ubuntu Edge will never be much more than a snazzy looking piece of concept art framed and placed on someone’s wall.

Ignoring the promotional price of $600 which was offered for the first 24 hours, the Ubuntu Edge is priced at $695. Considering the iPhone 5 64GB retails at $849 off the shelf, the $695 that Canonical is asking for the Edge doesn’t seem so unreasonable especially considering the hardware it sports. Sure, some hardware may not be finalized, but from details that are available, it certainly does look like the Ubuntu Edge was looking to be the Bugatti Veyron of the mobile communications world – 4GB RAM, 128GB storage, dual booting of Android and Ubuntu, coupled with an undisclosed “fastest multi-core” CPU.

So, why is it that they look to be falling so far short of the mark? Let’s ignore the obvious comparison with the iPhone since Apple could release a rock with a keypad and people would still buy it for $849 (tin-foil hat engaged). Compared to other flagship Android devices (HTC One $599, Samsung S4 $649), the Ubuntu Edge appears to be a steal at a “marginally” higher price. The ability to dock the phone and boot up Ubuntu while at the same time having the flexibility to unplug and switch over to Android is a huge advantage and cannot be overstated. Despite the fact that smartphones are obviously getting more and more powerful, there are just some things that a full blown desktop OS will either be able to do that a mobile OS won’t, or just be plain better or more efficient at. Even ignoring the fact that the Edge has dual boot capabilities, it is still an Android device with incredible specs at a price point that is just a touch higher than typical flagship Android phones.

Added this bit in response to Colin’s piece available here.

The public stats for Ubuntu are quite impressive – generally it is the most popular desktop Linux distribution out there. Just look at the adoption & reception: in June 2009, it was estimated that there are 13 million active users; in fall 2011 Canonical itself estimated more than 20 million users worldwide. This number must have grown tremendously, but even at a 20 million base, you’re looking at 0.073% conversion rate to buy an Ubuntu Edge.

And here’s where I think the issue lies. It is true that Ubuntu IS the most popular desktop Linux distribution out there, however, while the numbers are pretty hefty (20 million at last estimate), the problem is that the majority of these users aren’t really Ubuntu users. I think they are users of a free Operating System, others, essentially hipsters who use Ubuntu because it is the path less traveled (that is cheaper than buying a Mac). My point is that Ubuntu has become so widely used that the average user is no longer your archetypal nerd with glasses who stares at an enormous multi monitor workstation all day anymore, that the average citizen of the Ubuntu community is no longer someone who “embraces” the OSS philosophy.

Based on some numbers from here, a rough estimate would put Ubuntu/Arch/Debian/Mint at 80% to 90% of the entire Linux distribution user pie – all highly accessible to anyone with basic computing knowledge (not that this is a bad thing). But assuming that the actual number of OSS advocates in those communities is closer to the average of the other reasonably large distros, then Ubuntu (and by extension Arch/Debian/Mint but to a lesser degree), the familiar geeky looking Ubuntu nerd population in the wild is actually closer to 5% of Canonical’s estimate – a very optimistic total of maybe 1 million (I personally think it’s much lower, probably 2.5% and 500k maybe). At that point, the conversion rate becomes a much more logical number.

As I mentioned earlier, I personally think that the price point isn’t the major hurdle that Canonical has to overcome. Anyone who is even remotely interested in OSS that happens to have that $600/$895/etc. available during the Indiegogo campaign would have jumped on that Ubuntu Edge bandwagon (yours truly included). It’s the fact that outside of the OSS community (and this includes the folks who are Ubuntu users), mentioning the Ubuntu Edge results in more raised eyebrows and confused looks rather than a moan that a porn star would be proud of.


My “Experience” with Samsung Malaysia

As my somewhat trusty Nokia N9 began to show its age, I grew an itch for something a little more mainstream (how hipster of me I know). After some (very little) research, the requirement of having expandability narrowed down my options of an Android device to just one; the Samsung Galaxy S3. This is a somewhat short story of what has transpired during the relatively short time that the S3 has been in my possession (note the lack of mention of whether in working condition or otherwise).

During the first 6 months of the domestic partnership between me and my S3, things were absolutely rosy (for the most part). The device was as fast as you would expect a top of the line Android device to perform inclusive of the hefty amount of bloatware that is proudly included with every Samsung device. This is what most people describe as the honeymoon period of your typical smartphone life cycle.

Sometime after the 6 month timeframe, things start to go wrong. Strange, unexplained crashes and freezes start to pepper the timeline. Some “research” points towards my device being one of the many that are (or will be) experiencing the Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS). What this essentially means, is that my device will (after an unknown period of time) suddenly kick the bucket due to some defective memory that was installed in one of the earlier batches of the Samsung Galaxy S3.

I did what anyone in their right mind would do. I brought my device directly to the Samsung service center approximately 2 weeks before my 3 month trip overseas – after all, nobody wants to have their device to do some bucket kicking midway through a 3 month trip right? The day before I was due to go overseas for 3 months, I picked up my device. According to the folks at Samsung, they could detect no issues with my device, and could not reproduce the hangs and crashes that I had experienced. Within minutes of picking up the device, I had reproduced the hangs and crashes numerous times which resulted in somewhat confused looks upon the faces of those present. Their recommendation was for me to wipe the device again and see if it made any difference (I had already wiped the device so many times it should have been antiseptic by that point). Obviously, there wasn’t much I could do since my flight was in about 24 hours at that time – so I gave up and started praying that the device would survive my 3 month journey abroad (while logic made it pretty obvious it wouldn’t).

Approximately 15 minutes after I passed Malaysian immigration in KLIA, the S3 crashed. A battery pull (the device was no longer responding to button presses) resulted in this awesome display of colours.

So, dropping off my device BEFORE it died was pointless, since the “technical” people at Samsung Malaysia obviously have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. I dropped off the device, described the issue, mentioned that this was most likely the Sudden Death Syndrome described above, asked them to include this information when returning my device. I’m not entirely sure that there was anything else I could have done differently to have avoided this situation.

Fast forward 2 months or so – I’ve sent back the device to Malaysia with a friend, who passed it to another friend of mine, who attempted to return the device to the same Samsung Malaysia branch I had originally taken my device to. Result? They essentially said that they wouldn’t take in the device and told him to send it to another branch. So, not only are the technical staff inept, the customer facing staff have now decided that the hands-off policy is the best strategy.

End result? I have a phone that has a 12 month warranty, that thanks to absolutely stunning Samsung Malaysia customer service and technical staff now only has a theoretical maximum of 9 months of usage under warranty, along with being about EUR300 lighter in the wallet thanks to having to buy ANOTHER device to use for the duration of my travels.