Canonical and the Ubuntu Edge Gambit

Prior to the announcement of their intention to raise $32 Million through indiegogo.com for the development of Ubuntu Edge, Canonical was the parent company of Ubuntu, a leading desktop Linux distribution.  Post-Announcement, Canonical is a thought/ technology leader squarely positioned at the apex of innovation.  They are mentioned in a variety of discussions ranging from their novel approach to funding enterprise software, the amount of the ask (the largest in the short history of crowdfunding), the viability of their proposed phone platform, their vision of a unified operating system, or simply as a branded Linux distribution that is discussed outside of their previously narrower sphere of influence.

In a world where Canonical’s Ubuntu is widely utilized on developers desktops, but is otherwise of little strategic consequence, Canonical has thrust themselves into a variety of strategic conversations.  From a branding perspective, they have already won.  From a fundraising perspective, they missed their audacious target by quite a bit, while still setting a new mark for committed funds $12.9Million of their targeted $32 million round, but with firms like Bloomberg bankrolling some of the cost, they are gathering powerful friends and have certainly moved up a tier in their perceived utility.

There are a variety of Linux distributions led by Red Hat Enterprise Linux on the server side, but by talking about a phone that may or may not ever see the light of day, and the utility of a common OS across a myriad of devices, Canonical has changed the nature and frequency of discussions about Canonical.  They have differentiated themselves from their peer group in a way that is disproportionate to their sector impact, their marketshare or their underlying, deployed technology.  Sometimes vision matters.  Whether their execution measures up to their marketing flair remains to be seen.  It will be interesting monitoring Canonical’s path over the next 18 months.  Whether this path is one that they pursue independently, as a part of a broader consortium, or as an acquired entity, the audacity of their plan has elevated their stature and thrust them into conversations that had not previously included them.

The boldness of their $32 million ask set them up to fail in their fundraising quest, but as a marketing gambit, it has already been a coup.  The large-scale of the ask, the allure of the phone and the crispness of the presentation surrounding convergence ensure that Ubuntu is no longer just a flavor of desktop Linux offered by Canonical.  Ubuntu and Ubuntu Edge are a part of a larger discussion and that can only benefit Canonical.

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