Sad news for fans of official Ubuntu merchandise: the Ubuntu Shop has closed down!
Loading the shop.canonical.com domain in a browser used to serve up a well-stocked store-front full of t-shirts, lanyards, pens and more.
Now? Not so much. As of today, would-be buyers are instead greeted by a large, everything-has-already-gone sign informing them that ‘the Ubuntu Store is now closed’.
So what happened?
Ubuntu Shop Closes Down
A handful of Linux distributions maintain their own merchandise stores or partner with a third-party one. This allows them to sell some (often thinly) branded stock bearing a logo or a typeface and make some (often much-needed) revenue.
But the Canonical Store felt different, somehow. More thoughtful, considered and curated. It sold items that Ubuntu fans might actually have a use for, beyond the obvious joy of promoting their fave Linux distro, of course.
The Canonical Store, also referred to as the ‘Ubuntu Shop’, launched in late 2007 with an exclusive black Ubuntu t-shirt and a small selection of other items, such as a sticker sheet, some CDs and a mug.
As Ubuntu’s popularity rocketed in the real world, so too did the range of items being retailed in the Canonical Store.
What began as a few t-shirts and a biro quickly expanded to cover a more diverse array of items.
You could buy everywhere from Ubuntu-branded messenger bags and backpacks, to laptop sleeves, polo shirts and hoodies, lanyards, commercial software, PC accessories, pens, CDs, notebooks (paper kind) and more.
Not sure what it was called, though
Fact: I’ve I’ve never known what to call the store/shop/hub.
“Canonical Store” seems to be the proper name for the shop, but you’d find it linked/referred to as the “Ubuntu Shop” (indeed, you could even access it via the
shop.ubuntu.com domain) and the “Ubuntu Store”:
Whatever it was actually called the Canonical Store (aka Ubuntu Shop aka Shuttleworth’s Merch Hub) was clearly a success. It had to have been to stick around for as long as it did.
So why has it closed?
A sign of a decline?
Some will see the closure of the Ubuntu Shop as a sign that Ubuntu’s popularity is on the wane, that it no longer has enough of a community to sell pens and t-shirts to.
Others will assume it’s simply plateaued; that everyone who ever wanted an Ubuntu pen now has one.
Personally, I think Canonical is simply cutting back on superfluous (if appreciated) fluff. I can’t imagine there was a lot of money made by selling these promotional items, and they rarely (if ever) promoted the store or new items added (which didn’t stop us doing it for them).
Ubuntu is still the biggest Linux distribution in pretty much every area it competes. It’s not short of users. It’s not short of “brand” power, either.
The honest answer is I don’t know why the store has suddenly closed. I did reach out to someone at Canonical, but they were as surprised about its shuttering as I was!
The good news is that Canonical’s Alan Pope says there willbe a way to continue to buy official merchandise to help support the Ubuntu project. Details are scant right now, but a new “partnership” is in the offing. We’ll let you know more as soon as we hear!
We’ll miss the official merch (for now)
It remains to be seen if the budding new ‘partnership’ will offer as wide an array of items as the OG store.
So thank you Ubuntu merch store! Thanks for all the CDs, DVDs, keyrings, pens, mouse mats, t-shirts, DVD playback software (that no-one ever bought) and mugs.
Especially the mugs!
Anyone remember those terrifically crammed sheets of stickers they used to sell? MY OLD KEYBOARD CERTAINLY DOES!
That said there were a few, err, “unique” items along the way…
Weirdest Ubuntu Merch, Ever
In honour of the shutters falling on the Ubuntu Shop I had a loot round the back rooms of my brain to compile this: a list of the weirdest official Ubuntu merchandise Canonical expected actual people to spend actual money on.
1. Ubuntu Cycling Bib (£72.99)
People love Ubuntu. People love cycling. Surely somewhere, somehow, these two niches meet, Venn diagram style, in the real world?
Erm, if you say so Canonical.
I don’t know; maybe it’s a “London city” thing that I don’t get. Maybe professional tech-included folk genuinely do bob about on bikes whilst wearing skin-tight cycling bibs.
But I don’t think I’ve seen anyone outside of a cycling race wear a bib.
And I’m not sure people who are super serious about cycling to the point that they’re in a race would would be equally super serious about repping their Linux distro whilst they do it.
Especially for — checks notes — £72.99?!!
But hey — if you bought an Ubuntu cycling bib (and you have a photo of you wearing it) let me know!
2. Waterproof USB Keyboard (£15.99)
Ask a room full of 100 people to imagine their dream computer keyboard and they’ll all think of the same thing: “one that rolls up and fits into a frosted zip-lock pouch”.
Canonical answered the collective desire circa 2010 when it added a flexible, rollable, rubbery USB keyboard to its online store.
The regular sized keyboard was made of silicone so that Ubuntu users everywhere could finally, at long last, after years of demanding it, er, type poolside…?
Notably, the flexible keyboard sported an Ubuntu logo on the side, but it used a Windows key on the actual keyboard! It was available in a variety of keyboard layouts though.
An absolute bargain at £15.99, I imagine they sold millions.
3. USB Vase speaker (£19.95)
I know what you’re thinking but please, don’t panic: this item was (mercifully) not a sub-woofer with room for water and flowers.
No, the Ubuntu Vase speaker was simply a tall, vertical USB speaker that (apparently) resembles a vase.
Powered solely by USB (unique at the time) the Vase touted an impressive 3W “surround sound experience”. It also had a unique swivel button on the top that could be used to adjust volume, treble and bass separately.
For an added touch of Ubuntu the speaker’s LED glowed joyous orange as it when in use.
The Vase wasn’t the only Ubuntu-branded speaker that Canonical would slap a circle of friends on. They also sold a Bluetooth smartphone speaker RRP £44.99 in late 2012.
4. Ubuntu Thinking Putty (£4.29)
I don’t know about you but when I think “user-friendly Linux operating system for human beings” I think slime.
Except I don’t, and neither do you.
Long before the current Slime craze among kids, someone at Canonical had a
Eureka! moment at their desk and thought:-
“What the Ubuntu community needs …is a pot of non-toxic orange goo with an Ubuntu logo on!”
Perhaps it was designed to combat the stress of early Ubuntu hiccups, like wi-fi drivers that never worked, the terrible brown colour scheme, and the far of seeing the ‘Busy Box’ graphics-are-dead screen on reboot.
I do like that the store description of the time clarified that the gloop came “in a handy storage pot” and not, y’know, just scraped into a regular envelope or something.
5. Ubuntu Phone Buddy (£16.60)
This list isn’t presented in any sort of order – i’m mentally way too disorganised for that — but this item, the Ubuntu Phone Buddy, had to make the list.
Not because it wasn’t useful — i imagine it was — but simply because of when it was sold.
Before Android, before iOS, before smartphones as we know them were even a thing, most of us kept our flip, brick and candy phones in the exact same place: our bags.
Canonical wanted to change that:
“Give your phone a home of its own, with an Ubuntu phone-holder for your home/office desk,” the store blurb read.
The handy desktop dock was essential a mobile phone stand glued on top of a 3-port USB hub and card reader. It came with mobile adapters for all the of the leading mobile phones at the time.
A snip at £16.60.
And The Best Bit of Ubuntu Merchandise?
I’ve shown you five “unique” items that range from “okay” to “serious?” — but here’s the best bit of Ubuntu merchandise ever sold.
A cuddly toy.
Alas not of of Mark Shuttleworth of the (much missed) Jane Silber, but of a release mascot.
During the Ubuntu 10.04 ‘Lucid Lynx’ cycle Canonical sold the ultimate must-have for Linux geeks: a limited edition cuddly Lynx toy!
This was a charitable product; Canonical donated a portion of the money it made from each Lynx toy sale to the (now defunct) SOS Lynx foundation.
And do you know how much it cost? £8.50.
We’ll miss the merch but we won’t miss the eye-waveringly prohibitive P&P, #sorrynotsorry.
Perhaps my own range of HOT MUST HAVE merchandise can fill the gap? Anyone? No? Really?!! Dammit…