Thursday, 22 August 2013

RIP The Edge

It's finally over, and unsurprisingly, the Canonical's Indiegogo campaign for the Edge mobile phone has failed to reach its stated goal of $32 million. As a matter of fact it barely managed a third of it.

I have already written about why I think the campaign was destined to fail, and also - for those who actually parse what they read - what may have been done to prevent disaster. I won't bother here with details, and will instead just offer a quick recapitulation:
  • the price of the phone was just not right (too high)
  • the perks structure was wrong (too few)
  • the idea specs can be changed at 11th hour was misguided
  • the specs were not as good as they were made out to be (for May 2014)
  • the concept was not as revolutionary as it was touted to be
  • the tech press PR was poor and missing
What is surprising, however, is the number of people - and a lot of them non-backers, too - who are proclaiming the whole thing a victory and a success. Their argument revolves around the absolute sum raised which is the largest ever for crowdfunding, but also non-existent as the project has failed. They also somehow translate the 5,000+ phone pre-orders and 25,000+ total backers as indication of into sufficient customer demand which will eventually mean the Edge will become true. Finally, they continue to maintain that the specs and features are so revolutionary that the Edge will remain to be undoubted industry leading product.

First, the absolute sum. It's silly, really. Yes, it's a nice headline figure. However, nobody's going to benefit, and not a cent will reach Canonical or Edge project. Sadly, what everyone's takeaway will be is: $12m is way lower than $32m. Fail.

Second, the backers versus potential customers. This is actually a point that could be debated either way. However, seeing as a phone like this has to attract customers in millions to be priced at anything people will actually pay ($800 production translates into more than a $1000 retail) it would mean that behind every one of the 5,000 pre-orders there's 200 waiting in line or - if we're extremely generous - that behind every single backer there's 40 people waiting to see Edge in the shops. I submit that's an unlikely calculation and probably by a factor of 5 to 10. But I am prepared to be proven wrong (by solid market research).

Third, and final, the specs. Yes, on paper, now, they are impressive. In May 2014? Not so much. Size of RAM is already getting to 3GB in high end devices. The amount of flash storage of 128GB is nice, but I still maintain that current 32GB coupled with a 64GB uSD card is sufficiently close so as not to matter. Finally, the quoted screen size and resolution are decidedly average even by today's standards. And again, it's anyone's guess what devices with what specs will be available in May 2014 or later, and it is later that matters as Edge had no chance of being released in time even if it was funded.

So, am I a naysayer with an agenda - as I have been accused of a few times? Methinks not. As a matter of fact, I'd personally love for a project such as Edge to be a success. Why? Because I'd rush out and buy it, of course. And I'd probably be happy to spend close to a $1,000 for one - if done right. None of which is a reason - in fact all of which are reasons extraordinaire - to openly point out the flaws and weaknesses in a public project like Edge. How else Canonical - and others who may be having similar ideas - could be helped to avoid the pitfalls and mistakes of the past? Surely not by being praised to high heavens and patted on the back for a project that failed at the first hurdle.

Finally, will we see a product like the Edge? I'm sure we will. It's just that someone, somewhere (and not necessarily in the summertime) needs to go back to a drawing board and try again. And maybe this time they should do a little bit more of the prep work before going public. The whole industry does not need another public failure like the Edge.

And it is a failure. Public, and provable.